Eddie the Eagle

Although clichéd, Eddie the Eagle is an uplifting biopic and an equally whimsical sports dramedy.

When it comes to sports biopics, there is no greater joy than watching athletes overcome unsurmountable odds. It’s the very reason why everyone loves the underdog – that an unassuming nobody can become a legend by achieving the impossible. But what if that nobody never becomes a real legend?

Take the case of Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards, a name that faded away as soon as it had the slightest chance of making headlines. Edwards did something no one else did in sporting history. At the age of 22 and on a whim, he went from amateur ski-jumping to qualifying for the 1988 Winter Olympics in less than two years, and with barely any formal training. At that time he was the only British ski-jumper to reach the Olympics but getting there wasn’t easy. From his parents to the British sports committee to competing against athletes having trained since they were toddlers, the odds were vastly against Edwards. In the end, what really mattered was his determination to succeed, but if it weren’t for this film no one would know who Edwards was and what he did to become a hometown hero.

That’s because the Eddie in this film is portrayed as an oddball rather than a real Olympian. Albeit based on actual events, obvious tweaking in the screenplay modulates the narrative from a serious sports drama to a whimsical sports comedy. It works both ways as safe play from the makers and probably why many of the clichés are forgivable. Even so, the real reason to watch this film is Taron Egerton as the titular hero. From the underdog in 2015’s sleeper hit Kingsman: The Secret Service to the underdog in this film, Egerton is an instant charm magnet and one of few reasons that make us want to care for a person sidelined in sports history. The other reason is Hugh Jackman as Eddie’s mentor and reluctant coach. Although fictional, the turnaround in Jackman’s character from a former ski-jumper turned binge-drinking jerk to Eddie’s first real admirer and subsequent bonding elevates the film to crowd pleasing levels. And Jackman, reminiscent of a very similar role in Real Steal, pulls it off with sheer screen presence.

By the time Edwards earns the titular moniker Eddie the Eagle, there is little left to be cynical about.  Even if this story is only half true and riddled with feel-good clichés and hokey moments, it is still pleasantly watchable thanks to typical British humour, upbeat period music, and the loveable goofiness of its main characters. This is precisely what sets apart Eddie the Eagle from hundreds of other underdog films. That, and the fact that this film isn’t about winning, rather, how epic failure can still make a legend out of a determined sportsman. It’s the same reason that made Cool Runnings such an uplifting film. The similarities are there and if you watch closely, so is the reference.

Rating: ★★★☆☆


About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.