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Friday, March 4, 2016

Eddie the Eagle 2016 * * * Stars

Eddie the EagleDirector: Dexter Fletcher
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken

Does anybody out there recall the 1988 Winter Olympics? I do. I was 13 going on 14. What I vaguely remember about those games was the fact that the United States had a lousy showing. The land I was born in finished below 9 other countries. In 88', there was also British ski jumper Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards. He never won a medal, looked sort of funny, and became an affable media sensation. I remember watching highlights of his jumps but was never tuned in to his ultimate journey, his plight. With 2016's Eddie the Eagle (my latest review), I now have that affinity. It's only the month of March but "Eagle" stands as one of the best films I've seen this year. It's about good-hearted people having good things happen to them. Ah, you know there's nothing like warm, movie fuzzies when the temperature is 25 degrees outside. Natch.

So OK, have you ever had a dream? Have you ever felt the need to pursue a dream? And were you in the mindset of not giving up no matter what odds stood in the way of fulfilling that dream? If these thoughts and notions pertained to you, then Rudy was the film to see back in the early 90's. That was then and now Eddie the Eagle keeps the train rolling. "Eagle" is similar to that legendary, Notre Dame true story. The events feel almost identical in terms of underdog main characters, the ridicule they got from their peers and family members, their journey to notoriety, and the fact that they didn't quite have gifted, athletic ability. Rudy remains in my top five list of best sports movies. Eddie the Eagle isn't quite as invigorating but it's more intricate in plot specifics. With a few feel-good moments and two likable leads (Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton), it's recommendable enough for at least a spot in my top twenty.

Based on true events, featuring a soundtrack full of 80's synthesizer music (sounding like residue from ABC's Wide World of Sports), and giving us a neat cameo in the form of one Christopher Walken, "Eagle's" trailer had me initially feeling a Disney sports vibe. For some reason however, it rises above that distributor's brand of schmaltz and manipulative banter. The story chronicles the real-life (Michael) Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton from Kingsman: The Secret Service). You see from the time Eddie was a youngster, he always wanted to be an Olympian. It didn't matter what event. He put Olympic posters on his wall, practiced throwing the javelin in his backyard, and tried to do the high jump only to break many pairs of his glasses. At one point, his dad finally tells him, "Eddie, you're not an athlete!" As time goes on, Ed ditches the idea of being in the Summer Olympics and instead decides he wants to ski in the Winter Olympics. After being rejected by British Olympic officials for being unrefined, he ends up finding a way to be the only ski jumper on the British Olympic team. He learns how to fly high within a year (most people start practicing when they are 6 according to everyone in the flick). And with the help of a peevish, has-been Olympiad from the 70's (Bronson Peary played by Hugh Jackman), Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards (a nickname given to him by a newscaster) vows to compete in the 15th Olympics via the city of Calgary, Alberta.

Image result for eddie the eagle movie scenes
Now despite using the overplayed Hall & Oats song, "You Make My Dreams" during its training montages, "Eagle" is still a movie that anyone of any age could like. Director Dexter Fletcher surprised me by how well he filmed the ski jump sequences. Whether it was through the eyes of Edwards himself (going down an in-run) or having the camera stuck right up in his face (in the middle of said in-run), the technique is quite impressive. In terms of the acting, well up-and-comer Egerton and top billed Jackman have great chemistry together. They give dynamic performances as bumbled ski monger and alcoholic-soaked, jumping guru. I had my reservations at first but it turned out to be perfect casting. Bottom line: Eddie the Eagle might be a little too playful to qualify as say, an Oscar contender. However, for 106 fervent minutes, it mostly "soars" (ha-ha). Rating: 3 stars.

Of note: I got a kick out of the Jackman trouper. He smokes heavily, drinks from a flask because it keeps him warm (the dude doesn't wear a coat even though it's the middle of winter), works as maintenance guy and I guess, plows snow, and with ciggie in mouth, can still jump 90 metres in the dead of night. God bless ya mate!

Written by Jesse Burleson

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