I think all of us who watched the 1988 Winter Olympics were shocked and amazed that Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards was a) selected as a competitor and b) made it out alive. But you couldn't deny that this geeky unlikely zany English ski-jumper turned a niche dull TV spectacle into something entertaining. A true underdog story come to life. Almost as unlikely as Eddie's Olympic appearance is the fact that his story has now been made into a movie! And weirder still is the fact that this movie contains almost ZERO truth of Eddie's life while somehow capturing 100% the basic struggle he faced. It's a movie starring a very pretty young kid wearing national health specs who looks nothing like the guy he's meant to be playing. It's also a movie that's so transparently hokey and creaky and manipulative you can see it coming a mile-off. And yet for all its faults, it somehow works! And I don't mind admitting the sheer exhilaration I felt watching Eddie successfully complete his ski-jump and that it got a little dusty in the theatre at its jubilant finale.
So what's it all about? Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) is a geeky naive young boy who wants to be an Olympian despite his apparent lack of athleticism. He wants to compete in the downhill ski team, but the British Olympic Committee in all its snobbery denies him a place. They are funded by corporate sponsorship and Eddie's face and class don't fit. So he decides to become a ski jumper instead despite having little experience, finance or support. He moves to Germany to train with his peers who roundly mock him, but is taken up by a drunken ex-jumper played by Hugh Jackman. Cue training videos and an unlikely journey to Calgary where the stuck-up Brits are still unsupportive. Eddie is accused of bringing his sport into disrepute by being so transparently amateur but argues that this is precisely the Olympic spirit.
It strikes me that this movie is rather like ZOOTOPIA in its political message but a lot more fun. Both movies show is a system that is meant to be utopian. The Olympic ideal is that anyone who works hard and loves sport can enter, just as in ZOOTOPIA anyone can be anything. And yet little Judy Hopps is told she's not strong enough and not big enough, just as Eddie Edwards basically isn't rich and posh enough. Both triumph over this bigotry to a certain extend, but the system remains corrupt. We all know that the real post-script to this story is that the BOC continued to move the goalposts so Eddie couldn't qualify for subsequent Olympic games. Still, that post-script is left off screen and EDDIE THE EAGLE is far more focussed on the feel-good factor than cynical capitalism. It's success lies in the fact that both Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman are immensely likeable screen presences and that they seem to genuinely like each other. This, coupled with a brilliant cameo from screen icon Christopher Walken is enough to make any movie worth watching.
EDDIE THE EAGLE has a running time of 106 minutes and is rated PG-13. EDDIE THE EAGLE played Sundance 2016. The movie is on release pretty much everywhere except: France, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia where it opens on April 14th; Australia, New Zealand and Poland where it opens on April 21st; in Israel on May 5th, in Spain on May 13th; in Italy on June 2nd and in Japan on November 4th.