Eddie the Eagle

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When I went to a visit a friend who had moved to Salt Lake City, the  2002 winter Olympics were months away. I was able to go to the top of a ski jump and look down. It was frightening. It was hard to imagine somebody getting up there on skis and flying down that ramp. Especially after years of seeing the “agony of defeat” guy on Wide World of Sports. A story on that guy (Vinko Bogataj) would make for an interesting film. Look up his story, it’s interesting. Instead, I spent this cliché filled sports movie just hoping Eddie would fly off the ramp and crash. No, Eddie the Eagle never really took off. The film was an utter disappointment on several levels.
First, it’s a highly fictionalized account of what really happened. Second, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards (Taron Egerton of Kingsman: The Secret Service) is so unlikable, you never really get that invested. He doesn’t drink, he seems afraid of sex, he stands around with his mouth open, pushing his thick glasses back onto his face; you wonder if he’s mentally challenged. He doesn’t seem to have a clue about anything in life. You quickly realize this isn’t a Rudy type that’s going to overcome obstacles like not having the most athletic body, to persevere and succeed at something challenging. He’s a whiney little boy, who plays it one-note. He badgers his parents for money (that they don’t have), all because when he had a leg brace as a kid, he read a book about Olympic athletes, and it’s been his dream to be in those games. As Lou Gossett Jr. shouted in Richard Gere’s face in An Officer and a Gentleman, after Mayo tells him it’s always been his dream to fly jets: “My grandmamma wants to fly jets!!!”
So when Eddie gets cut from the British downhill ski team, he needs to figure something out. Well, since the UK hasn’t had a British ski jumper since the ’20s, he figures he’ll try that out.
Instead of delving into the interesting stories of these characters, it’s an avalanche of clichés that smother us (the numerous montages, the broken glasses). They should’ve shown us the real stories that happened with Eddie. When I looked them up, they were interesting. For example, the film never talks about why he keeps his glasses on. We just see them break, or fog up. It turns out he was so long-sighted he would be blind without them underneath his goggles. He also never went to train in Germany with a former Olympic champion. Yet we had to get Hugh Jackman (pulling off an American accent), and his former angry coach (Christopher Walken, in basically a cameo appearance) talking on TV about how hard he was to coach and how he was nothing but a disappointment. Will these both triumph and win the approval of the father-figures in their lives? What do you think?
There’s a story involving some Scandinavian skiers that are always bullying the boy (and sometimes the coach). At least we get a cool scene where the drunken coach goes to the top of the ramp in the middle of the night, with the great Thin Lizzy “Cowboy Song” playing (and cigarette dangling from his lips). The movie loses points for using Hall & Oates “You Make My Dreams.” That song was used nicely in (500) Days of Summer, but it really needs to be retired at this point.
Director Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill, Sunshine on Leith), a former actor (I dug him in Cockneys & Zombies) gives us a rather formula film. I let that slide with the Jesse Owens movie (Race). That’s because that’s a better real life story of the greatest moment in Olympic history. When you’re doing another Cool Runnings story (and over 25 years later), you need more to win us over. Screenwriters Simon Kelton and Sean Macaulay don’t give us enough.
Another Kingsman member is involved, but it’s not an actor. Cinematographer George Richmond gives us some decent jump scenes.
It’s not the schmaltziness of this film. It’s just a bunch of unlikable characters that aren’t that enjoyable to watch. I couldn’t figure out how if Jackman was an alcoholic, he could get so much done with his Zamboni. He was the most sober alcoholic on film. Oh wait…I’m forgetting about Race from last week. That coach was always shown with flask in hand and getting things done. Geez, I never thought I’d say I miss Burgess Meredith yelling at Rocky. He had the shakes from old age, not booze.
I couldn’t figure out why the mean skiers cared so much, except that it gave the film a Karate Kid feel they felt they needed.
Jim Broadbent made a bit more sense with his enthusiasm for the naïve kid, and it would’ve been nice to see him a bit more.
This is another movie with a manipulative score trying to coax emotions from us. It was also a synth driven mess, that reminded me of how much I despised the music from Chariots of Fire (how it won the Oscar is beyond me).
The use of Ravel’s “Bolero” was mildly clever, since the coach was using some inane analogy about how Eddie should think about having sex with Bo Derek to landing the perfect jump. Perhaps not the best analogy, considering the fact that we see Eddie running from a woman that’s throwing herself at him. At least that scene reminded me of two great things: Sean Penn in Fast Times talking about the new Playboy having “Bo Derek’s t**s;” and Joe Walsh playing Bolero in concert during his song The Bomber.
And on the subject of bombs — this movie was a big one. Eddie just acts too cartoonish and never seems like a real person.
In real life, he lived in a Finnish mental hospital. He got 10,000 pounds an hour in the early ’90s after all this…but ended up broke. I was more interested to find out these facts, than watching ski crashes on the slopes.
This movie may have its heart in the right place, but it’s not a very good movie.
1 1/2 stars out of 5.
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