“Eddie the Eagle” is a veritable “Forrest Gump on Skis,” a British version of the feel-good story of hapless ski-jumper Eddie Edwards.
A stumbling working class dreamer, Edwards slipped onto the British Olympic team by virtue of being the first Brit in more than half a century to tackle ski jumping. His daring and amusing incompetence made him the darling of the 1988 Calgary Winter Games.
Taron Egerton (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”) plays Eddie as a bit slow on the uptake, a dogged plodder who doesn’t let braces on his legs dissuade him from his childhood dream of Olympic glory.
He loses the leg braces, and after turning his myopic eyes to everything from javelin and pole vaulting, realizes the Winter Olympics offer a better shot at his dream. Ungainly, with poor eyesight and wearing a permanent, mouth-breathing puzzlement on his not-quite-ugly mug, he takes up skiing as “my Olympic preparations.”
His plasterer/sheet-rock installing dad (Keith Allen) doubts him.
“You are NOT an athlete!”
But his Mum (Jo Hartley) feeds his impossible dream, finds the cash to maintain his self-financed Quixotic pursuit.
And its just enough money to put him in a real training facility and attract the attentions of a real coach, played with hard-drinking, cowboy-boot wearing swagger by Hugh Jackman.
The coach is American, and he reluctantly gives Eddie pointers even as he frets that he’ll kill himself. Eddie is ever-undaunted. Bullied by his own Olympic committee (Tim McInnerny is head snob), taunted by Nordic veterans of the slopes, too poor to afford hotel rooms near the training site, Eddie plows forward.
Coach Peary is frankly awed by Eddie’s determination, as are we. No way this should happen, but it does.
There are villains and doubters, agonizing defeats and tiny victories snatched from the jaws of such defeats. Eddie takes falls, and breaks his glasses — repeatedly.
At every turn, somebody is telling Eddie to “give up,” that he’ll never be skilled or of the right class to make the team.
“It’s a world that don’t want to know you,” Dad counsels.
But Eddie, by pluck and by accident, makes sure the world does and comes to embody the Olympic spirit — “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part.”
The film is earning an inspired marketing campaign from the studio. The TV ads are pitching it as a mothers-indulge-their-kids tale, a boy who rises as far as his mother thinks her darling son can. That’s become a vital element in the American (not British) myth, that if you believe in yourself enough, you can play football for Notre Dame (“Rudy”) or become president.
That’s balderdash, of course, as is “Eddie the Eagle.” Actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher (“Wild Bill”) and his screenwriters render this in broad, Hollywood strokes — training montages set to ’80s pop (“You Make My Dreams Come True”), composite characters (Jackman’s coach), expedient alterations of the truth (Eddie learned his sport at Lake Placid, New York, not in Germany).
But as “Forrest Gump” proved, never bet against a supportive mom. There’s a need and a market for lump-in-the-throat, feel-good treacle. And the winning while losing “Eddie the Eagle” revels in that treacle, and has the English teeth to prove it.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive material, partial nudity and smoking
Running time: 1:45