Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 105 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. This sports movie includes some cursing; some sexually themed jokes and dialogue, including when an older woman propositions a younger man in exchange for someplace to stay; and some violent wipeouts during the sport featured, Olympic ski jumping, which cause brutal injuries and even death. Also some drinking to excess and a character who smokes cigarettes and is basically a functioning alcoholic.
‘Eddie the Eagle’ is one of those underdog sports stories we all love so much, with an excellent performance from the likeable, empathetic Hugh Jackman. This is one of the year’s best so far for kids and parents alike.
By Roxana Hadadi
Underdog sports movies are their own self-sufficient, beloved genre, and into that group effortlessly leaps “Eddie the Eagle.” The film, based on the life of British ski jumper Eddie Edwards, benefits greatly from its ‘80s-inspired style (a heavy synth soundtrack and a retro aesthetic) and its main casting of Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman as the unlikely Olympian Edwards and his even unlikelier mentor, respectively. They have great chemistry together, and their energy sparks up the screen.
“Eddie the Eagle” is the story of Edwards, a working-class, nerdy, sickly British kid who during his childhood in the early 1970s wanted nothing more than to be an Olympian. But he couldn’t jump high, he couldn’t throw far, and his obsession with the athletic competition was driving his father, a plasterer who was supporting their family, mad. “Eddie, you are not an athlete!” he yells, but that’s not stopping his son. Not when he discovers that he’s a natural on a pair of skis, and not when after years of hard work, the 22-year-old Eddie has qualified for the British national skiing team.
But in 1987, the year before the Winter Games in Calgary, Canada, the British Olympic Association Committee doesn’t want anything to do with the awkward Eddie (Egerton, of “Testament of Youth”) and bans him from joining the team. He’s not the right class, he doesn’t know the right people, and they think he’s an embarrassment, unable to get sponsors and therefore useless to their chances of international success. “You’ve gone as far as you can go,” they tell him, and the fact that he’s worked for this his whole life means nothing to them.
That doesn’t mean that Eddie is going to stop trying, though, so when he learns that Britain doesn’t have a ski jumping team – and so if he qualifies, he’ll end up going to Calgary, regardless of what the Committee says – he decides to travel to a prestigious camp in Germany to train. No matter that his parents are pawning their sofa to keep food on the table, or that Eddie has never had any experience ski jumping. If he can make it to the Olympics with this sport, he’s going to do it.
It’s a rude awakening, of course, when Eddie gets to Germany and realizes how dangerous the sport really is: Jumping from heights of 15, 40, 70, and 90 meters, after skiing downhill at astonishingly fast speeds, is no joke. People can get paralyzed; people can get killed. So Eddie pairs up with an initially unwilling mentor, disgraced former American Olympian Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman, of “Pan”). Years ago, Peary was cut from the American team because of his drinking and other bad behavior, and he’s unwilling to help Eddie at first – he sees Eddie as someone with no respect for the sport, only desperate for Olympic fame. But Bronson is wrong about Eddie, and Eddie is wrong about Bronson. They need each other – Eddie’s arrival at the Olympics and Bronson’s return there depends on it.
The story of “Eddie the Eagle” was a big deal at the 1988 Olympics, and so a lot of the movie feels like a foregone conclusion since Eddie’s life already belongs to history. But the movie does a nice job building both Eddie and Bronson into fully fleshed characters who each desperately desire their “moment” in the world, and who realize that their partnership is essential for achieving that. Egerton and Jackman have great chemistry together, and their deadpan vs. overzealous dichotomy is a familiar but satisfying one.
There is a lot to think about in “Eddie the Eagle,” too, about how we treat our athletes, who we choose to portray our countries, and what “fame” really looks like. The film covers an impressive amount of ground for a movie that seems initially like solely a straightforward feel-good flick about underdog athletes. But that’s the thing about underdogs – they always surprise you.
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