Eddie the Eagle (2016)
Director: Dexter Fletcher. Script: Simon Kelton, Sean Macaulay
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Taron Egerton, Tom Costello, Jack Costello, Jo Hartley, Keith Allen, Tim McInnerny
106min | Comedy Biopic | UK
Gentling lampooning Britain’s sporting prowess, Dexter Fletcher champions the ultimate British heroic failure through his story of Michael Edwards, a nerdish West Country plasterer who, from humble beginnings and a startling lack of talent, financed himself to represent us in the 1988 Winter Olympics, eventually carrying the torch, and winning the Nation’s heart with his own brand of sad-sack charm.
Well made and watchable in Fletcher’s capable hands; Maclaulay and Skelton’s embellishment of the true facts nevertheless stretches our imagination to breaking point with a misguided though timely portrait of self-delusion emblematic of the today’s cult of celebrity where average kids brim over with self-confidencd, egged on by their obsessed parents, to imagine they are more talented than they actually are. Edwards ain’t no superman, he’s just everyman – and that’s what made him an inspiration to Joe Average. But Eddie’s real life is funnier and more surreal than these scripters’ absurd imaginings – which sadly are a jump too far.
Apart from the script, there’s a problem with the casting: Taron Egerton’s Eddie is not endearing, he’s just plain irritating. As a kid Jack Costello’s Eddie is cute; as a grown-up Egerton’s Eddie fails to win any prizes – rocking Mrs Brown style glasses (and a Les Dawson grimace), his curly hairdo brings to mind Kevin Keegan and his waddling posture, Daffyd Thomas (‘the only gay in the village’) – which does him no favours at all: he’s also portrayed as being a teetotal, sexless dork who is ripped to pieces by the more experienced Scandinavian skiers (Finnish skier Matti Nykanen is played by Edvin Endre); he even passes up a quasi-flirt with willing and sultry Cougar bar owner (Iris Berben). The real Edwards did at least have stunt experience, where here he tackles 40 and 70 metre skiing ramps as a total ingenue who simply dusts himself down after some stratospheric and neck-breaking jumps – seen from his own POV as the jumper. Hugh Jackman has been wheeled in (to garner US box office support) as his fictional coach Bronson Peary – an alcoholic has-been who is now driving a snowplow and tries to teach Eddie how to jump by likening the experience to sex – clearly lost on Eddie. But in fairness, Egerton cools his jets once Jackman is on board, becoming marginally less annoying and more plausible. That said, the film does the real Edwards no favours – the maxim holds that truth is stranger than fiction and the need to embellish it is at best bad taste and and at worst, a downright crying insult to the man himself. To cut to the chase, Edwards finally makes it to the Olympics amid George Richmond’s inventive set pieces. A well-chosen score featuring Thin Lizzy, Hall & Oates and Holly Johnson) adds grist to our appreciation of the film’s more creatively quirky moments. MT
NOW OUT ON GENERAL RELEASE from 1 APRIL 2016