Eddie the Eagle – Review (*** 1/2)

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A testament to how entertaining predictable material can be in the right hands, Eddie the Eagle triumphs largely thanks to its strong performances and a strange twist on the underdog formula that’s just unique enough to satisfy.

Ever since he was a child, Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) has dreamt of becoming an Olympic athlete, and sees his chance when it turns out that the UK hasn’t had an Olympic ski jumping team in 60 years. With the help of boozed-up former ski jumper Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), Edwards seeks to get his Olympic moment while capturing the hearts of a nation.

We’ve seen movies like this dozens if not hundreds of times before, but never quite like this. Eddie the Eagle distinguishes itself in that Eddie isn’t a massively talented athlete, but finds his niche and gives it his all; his sheer determination is undeniably endearing and makes him an easy character to root for.

Yes, it’s treacly and probably overly sentimental at times, but the earnest performances sell it well; rising star Egerton plays Edwards with a goofy charm, while Jackman is his usual grizzled, insanely charismatic self, and there’s plenty of heart brought by Jo Hartley, who plays Eddie’s proud, devoted mother. Christopher Walken’s appearance as Peary’s former manager, however, is sadly just a forgettable cameo.

Director Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill, Sunshine on Leith) also keeps things moving thick and fast to ensure we don’t get bogged down too deep in the Big Emotion of it all, yet at the same time the pic has a pleasant swell to it and an unexpectedly emotive climax. It suffers occasionally with some poorly-animated CGI ski jumps and tumbles, but this is for the most part a minor quibble.

This doesn’t reinvent the sports drama nor will you remember much of it in a few weeks, but Eddie the Eagle is a refreshing celebration of “heroic failure” and the importance of working hard to achieve your goal (no matter how modest it might be). As a quasi-satire of self-serious sports pics, it hits the mark.

*** 1/2

Eddie the Eagle is in cinemas now

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