Thursday, 21 April 2016

Eddie The Eagle

(PG) ★★★½

Director: Dexter Fletcher.

Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley, Keith Allen, Iris Berben, Tim McInnerny, Jim Broadbent, Christopher Walken.

"I thought I told you to shave those sideburns!"
IS it possible to do a sports movie that isn’t completely overflowing with clichés?

Probably not. Cinematic sport can’t exist without the underdogs, the redemptions, the montages, and the impossible dreams becoming realities. These components (minus the montages) typically make up the real stories we love to find in actual sports – tales of triumphing against the odds, of coming from nowhere and ending up somewhere, of surprising the doubters and naysayers.

This film about Eddie The Eagle certainly doesn’t shy away from the sporting clichés. The true story of British ski jumper Eddie Edwards is resplendent with them, but just for good measure, the filmmakers have thrown in a heap of made-up ones as well.

In fact, don’t expect much truth at all in this biopic. What it gets right though is the spirit of Eddie’s endeavour and heart and goodwill that generated, which the film replicates.

Egerton plays Edwards, the plasterer who became the star of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics thanks to his sheer enthusiasm rather than his sporting prowess.

Edwards is portrayed as a single-minded individual whose only desire is to be an Olympian. After being cut from the downhill ski team by a snooty official (McInnerny), Edwards switches to ski jumping as there are no other Brits taking part in the event, making qualifying easier.

He’s helped along the way by washed-up ski jumper Bronson Peary (Jackman), a boozy American booted from the sport for his rebellious ways.

Peary is a good example of the film’s love of a good cliché – he’s an entirely invented character that adds a whole new bunch of tropes to the story on top of Eddie’s own no-hoper-does-good exploits.

With so many typical turns, the film survives almost on heart alone. Egerton does a fantastic job of winning our sympathies, gurning away with great sincerity as he smashes and bashes his way towards his dream, but amid the fictionalisation is an almost unbelievable true story of how one man effectively gatecrashed the Olympics. That seed at the centre of the film helps win you over and build up an immense amount of goodwill for the character.

It would be easy to mess up a film like this but the narrative is played out unfussily, the tone is kept light, and the whole enterprise has a vibe about it that matches Eddie’s can-do attitude and everpresent smile. Sure, it’s corny but it’s genuinely heartwarming.

Director Dexter Fletcher gets good mileage out of his ‘80s-style onscreen titles and an excellent ‘80s replica soundtrack, largely penned by Take That’s Gary Barlow, which helps capture the era perfectly.

It’s closest cousin is undoubtedly Cool Runnings, and while it won’t endure like its Jamaican relative, Eddie The Eagle is an enjoyable Olympic underdog tale that’s hard to hate.

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