Based on a true story, Eddie the Eagle is a tribute to the Olympic Games, the 1980s and everyone who got an “A” for effort in school but was a “C-” student.
As a child growing up in Great Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, Michael Edwards dreamed of someday being an Olympic athlete. Considered to be the world’s foremost sports competition, the Olympic Games is, er … was the chance for amateur athletes to compete on a playing field for national pride (due to a change in qualifying rules, professional athletes can compete these days). Hosted in a different country every time, the Games are a chance for millions of people around the world to watch their countrymen and -women compete in various sports, from basketball and synchronized swimming to skiing and curling. In the end, everyone is competing for the same prize: the gold medal. Being an Olympic athlete is a big deal.
That’s what you need to know to watch this movie if you are not already familiar with the great “Eddie the Eagle.” Frequently, a child’s desire to be an Olympic or professional athlete, movie actor or other highly skilled public professional fades as they realize how difficult it is to achieve that dream. For example, I came to terms with my dream of being the next Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when I was 12 years old and realized my sky hook wasn’t all that great — and I wasn’t going to be 7 feet tall.
Edwards never gave up on his Olympic ambitions. But here’s the thing: He’s not all that athletic. He has sight problems requiring him to wear thick-lensed glasses all the time, which fogged up when ski jumping. And in the movie, you’ll see his character wears a leg brace as a child.
The movie begins by establishing how important it is for “Eddie,” played by Taron Egerton, to be an Olympic athlete. His mother is supportive but his dad thinks he is being ridiculous. After trying out various Olympic sports, Eddie settles on downhill skiing. His father urges him to be realistic and start a career. In real life, Edwards is a pretty good downhill skier, having trained in Lake Placid leading up to the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. He was cut from the British team a year before the Olympics and was sent home.
At home and finally coming to terms with his Olympic ambitions, Eddie discovers a way to get on the Olympic team: ski jumping! Great Britain hasn’t had a team for years. All Eddie needs to do is qualify and he would be on the team. Like the movie Titanic, you probably can figure out the rest of the movie because it’s based on a true story. And unlike Titanic, you know that it has a good ending.
Eddie the Eagle is intentionally hokey, I think because the story itself is so unbelievable. At first I was bored with the movie because I thought the characters were mere clichés. Eddie is a stereotypical dork trying to prove everyone wrong. His coach, played by Hugh Jackman, is that washed-up athlete wasting away on booze. There’s even a Rocky IV-like training montage set to “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates.
But as hokey as the movie is, it works! It works because you realize that beyond all the absurdity of Eddie ski jumping, he takes this extremely dangerous sport very seriously. He’s not a sideshow. He’s not someone who found a loophole in the system to get his 15 minutes of fame. He found a way to live the Olympic dream to compete on the world’s stage. So enjoy every minute of this feel-good story about a guy who loved proving people wrong.
Eddie the Eagle is available beginning June 14 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
TM & © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Credit: Larry Horricks