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"EDDIE THE EAGLE"
(2016) (Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A young man tries to overcome various obstacles and the long odds of participating in the Winter Olympics as a ski jumper.
PLOT:
Ever since he was a kid, Eddie Edwards (TARON EGERTON) has dreamed of participating in the Olympics, much to the chagrin of his working class dad, Terry (KEITH ALLEN), although his mom, Janette (JO HARTLEY), has always been supportive of his dreams. Unfortunately, those choosing England's downhill ski team for the 1988 Olympics don't believe he's Olympic material. Briefly dismayed and dejected but then coming upon a novel idea, the skier decides he'll be Britain's first ski jumper in more than six decades, and the first to represent his country in the Winter Games.

With little knowledge about that sport, he heads to a German ski jump facility where the likes of champion Matti Nykanen (EDVIN ENDRE) practices with his team and looks down on the neophyte. While middle-aged local bar owner Petra (IRIS BERBEN) finds the young man enticing off the slopes, Bronson Peary (HUGH JACKMAN) doesn't want any part of him from a skiing standpoint. He's a former Olympic hopeful who trained under legendary coach Warren Sharp (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN), but threw his chances away and now lives as an alcoholic who makes a living grooming the facility's slopes.

When Eddie learns of his past, he wants Bronson to be his coach, and eventually manages to convince him to help out, with that role growing over time. Yet, with the British Olympic committee being against Eddie's participation, not to mention his lack of experience in the sport, the young, determined and generally optimistic man must overcome the long odds and all sorts of obstacles in order to participate in the games.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
If you think about it, just about every movie ever made features an underdog of some sorts. Luke Skywalker was one, as was Rocky Balboa, and even films featuring strong, commanding characters almost always have them facing some sort of daunting task, challenge, opponent or villain.

After all, as is oft said by reviewers and drilled into filmmaking students' heads ad nauseam by their instructors, without conflict, there is no drama. And if there's a character who's truly invincible, what's the point? It would make for a boring flick.

But for reasons probably left to psychologists and other experts on the human condition, people love to root for true underdogs, both in real life and up on the screen. The sports genre is littered with such characters and the movies in which they appear, and the latest to join the constantly growing group is "Eddie the Eagle."

It's loosely -- and I stress that latter word -- based on the true life story of Eddie Edwards, a twenty-something Brit who was his country's only ski jump participant in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. In fact, England had not had such an athlete for decades, and Edwards was their first to participate in the big Games.

He wasn't that good -- at least in comparison to his competitors -- but his goofy demeanor and celebratory moves after landing his jumps caught on with audiences both in that Canadian country and worldwide on TV.

And although he might not have seemed as much of a long shot -- and thus true underdog -- as the unlikely Jamaican bobsled team in those very same Olympics (who already got their movie due in the 1993 dramedy "Cool Runnings") he did earn the nickname "Eddie the Eagle." Now, he finally gets his own film nearly three decades later where Taron Egerton ("Kingsman: The Secret Service ") stars as the ski jumper.

Director Dexter Fletcher -- working from a screenplay by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton -- starts off the film in cute comedy flashback mode where we see young Eddie displaying his determination to appear in the Olympics some day, but failing in amusing ways. His parents (Keith Allen and Jo Hartley) are split in terms of supporting his dreams, but he perseveres, with the story then settling into 1987 where the title character learns he's been cut from the British downhill skiing team, seemingly dashing his Olympic dreams.

But he then gets the crazy idea to transition over to ski jumping, and with no apparent experience in doing so, he heads off to Germany to hone his skills. There, he ends up meeting a once-promising but now washed up ski jumper who now grooms the hills when not using the contents of his flask as both breakfast and a heat-creating substitute for a coat in the wintry environs.

That man is played by the always likable Hugh Jackman, who manages to keep his character appealing despite the still occurring fallout damage from his flameout years earlier. He initially wants nothing to do with the fledgling jumper, and initially only gives a few points to help keep the young man from breaking his limbs, back, neck or anything else that could go snap after flying through the air for great distances and then crashing back to snowy Earth.

What follows is the formulaic and thus predictable story arc of the training montages, some warm-up contests, some treachery, and a brief falling out between the coach and athlete. Never fear, dear reader and fan of underdogs, for that doesn't last long and it's not long before the two are back at it. In turn, the athlete goes for his goals while the washed up and formerly disgraced coach gets his shot at turning his life around.

There will be those who don't like the movie based on everything in that last paragraph, while others will eat up all of that like a flavored snow cone. However, I think only diehard curmudgeons won't fall prey to the film's charms, never say quit aura and message, and the winning performances from the two leads. All of those qualities go a long way in letting the film's issues zip by as fast as a skier on a downhill jump. Cleary nothing novel but certainly easy to watch, "Eddie the Eagle" is entertaining enough and thus earns a 6 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed February 3, 2016 / Posted February 26, 2016


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