One of the old adages of life is that everyone loves an underdog. Underdogs like fellow underdogs. Normal people like underdogs. Talented, privileged people? They turn their nose up at inferior beings initially, but ultimately the underdog wins their respect. At least that’s what I’ve learned from every feel-good story that’s been released over the past 25 years or so.
Eddie the Eagle feels right at home with the rest of those underdog tales because it is one. While it won’t win any points for originality, the story of Eddie Edwards won me over because of the performances by Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman and because I always appreciate a feel-good story that’s done right. Even if I feel like I’ve seen it before.
From what I’ve already revealed about the plot, you can easily ascertain on your own the fact that this movie hits all of the familiar beats and features all of the tried and true archetypes. Eddie (Egerton) has a dream of being an Olympic ski jumper and no one thinks he can do it, not even his supportive mother and especially not his unsupportive father. All of the other Olympians sneer and laugh at him. Bronson Peary (Jackman), a former ski jumping champion, wants nothing do with him, but then Bronson sees how much heart Eddie has and begrudgingly agrees to train him. You know where this is going.
Egerton starred in last year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service and was the polar opposite of Eddie in that movie: good looking, brash and extremely capable. He goes the opposite route this time and brings a whole lot of good-natured stubbornness and athletic incompetence to Eddie. Relatable, but cliche. Egerton makes it work though. Not because Eddie is extremely likable (which he is), but because he doesn’t have delusions of grandeur in relation to Olympic glory. He just wants to take part and live his dream, which the other characters struggle to comprehend. Why would you want to go to the Olympics when your chances of winning are practically non-existent? Egerton sells you on Eddie’s life aspiration though and that he’ll have the conviction to see it through. We happily buy into it.
Jackman has a quality about him that always enhances roles like this. I don’t know if it’s a gruff restraint or something like that, but it served him well playing Wolverine and it does so here as well. Like everything else in this genre, the reluctant mentor is such a played out character that it’s hard to bring anything new to the table, but it’s refreshing here because Bronson sees qualities in Eddie that he doesn’t have. What Eddie lacks in physical attributes he makes up for in spades with guts and desire, and the two become friends the more that Bronson realizes that.
Even if you weren’t around for the 1988 Olympics, it’s not hard to guess how this ends. If you focus on how similar Eddie the Eagle is to all those other underdog tales, it’ll be easy to deride it for its lack of complexity and ingenuity. To me, that wasn’t the point. I knew that I was in for an experience that I’ve soaked up many times before, but I allowed the actors to win me over and convince me that Eddie’s odyssey was completely unique. Even though it wasn’t.
But hey, when the credits rolled I still wanted to get up and cheer. That was enough for me and maybe it will be for you too. Besides, that 80’s soundtrack was rockin’, man!
Jesse’s Rating: B