Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Sports films featuring underdog heroes are everyone’s jam, as they transcend their sport to tell a human interest story. They tap into our emotions and fuel the brain with inspirational dopamine. Director Dexter Fletcher’s EDDIE THE EAGLE does just that. Even though this may not represent these actors’ personal bests, its rousing, uplifting spirit is infectious. This is the feel-good movie of the year, replete with gobs of heart and gumption.
Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) dreams of being an Olympic athlete – only he isn’t very athletic. In his formative years, he’s hindered by a knee brace and coke-bottle glasses. In his twenties, though the knee brace is long gone, his gawky demeanor and penchant for pratfalls still remains. Fellow dreamer Mom (Jo Hartley) has encouraged his passion, however, his blue-collar father (Keith Allen) has been driven mad by all of Eddie’s antics. After getting cut from the British Olympic downhill skiing team before the trials, Eddie decides to try ski jumping, since no Brit has competed in that event in decades. All he needs now is a coach. Enter Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), an alcoholic, womanizing, washed-up former ski jump champion. Though these two are complete opposites in almost everything, Bronson favoring booze and Eddie loving milk, they share common ground – a drive to prove the naysayers wrong.
While it’s not a bad thing, it’s clear EDDIE THE EAGLE aims to be RUDY on skis, right down to the disapproving father lecturing his son at the bus stop. It also shares traits with COOL RUNNINGS – and not just because the Jamaican bobsledders competed at the same Olympics as Eddie. It employs similar plot beats and sweet, heartfelt sentiments about personal bests being the greatest victory. There’s probably also a splash of BREAKING AWAY in there too for good measure. While screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton’s narrative gets a little paint-by-numbers, there are a handful of genuinely inspired sequences to elevate it – like the use of “Bolero” as Bronson teaches Eddie about the connection between sex and skiing, a.k.a. Jackman’s Meg Ryan moment. I’ll have what he’s having. Matthew Margeson’s warm synth sounds on the score, plus soundtrack choices from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Hall and Oates and Van Halen (guess which song), augment the atmosphere and transport us back to the 80’s.
Fletcher maintains tone rather deftly. A scene in the pantry with Eddie and an oversexed café owner Petra (Iris Berben) could have taken the film into raunch-com, but Fletcher wisely backs off from that. The Norwegian ski jump team appear to be this film’s squad of 80’s style bullies, but Fletcher again restrains himself from painting them in broad strokes. Curbing cynicism also proves to be a winning strategy. It’s refreshing that it never mocks its hero or does anything terribly mean-spirited. Action sequences are beautifully shot and provide visceral thrills. Despite mugging on a few occasions, Egerton is a delight as Eddie especially when we see his regularly handsome self disappear into the character’s physicality – his underbite, oversized glasses that slip down his nose and body language. It’s impossible not to root for him. Although Jackman plays it really safe with his character (never actually showing him do anything too morally corrupt), it’s lovely to see him just having a blast in a comedic role.
EDDIE may not be perfect or flawless, much like the protagonist portrayed, but it wears its heart on its sleeve and fills your soul with joy.
EDDIE THE EAGLE opens on February 26.