In the movies, a great story trumps just about every other consideration.
“Eddie the Eagle” is a stolidly inartistic effort burdened with washed-out cinematography, just-OK special effects and a faux-Vangelis soundtrack.
But the more-or-less real-life yarn it tells is such a laugh-inducing, lump-in-the-throat-producing audience-pleaser that criticism is beside the point.
The 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, gave us the Jamaican bobsled team, subject of the 1993 film “Cool Runnings.” But another oddity of those games was Eddie Edwards, a geeky Brit who showed up as the sole member of his country’s ski jumping team.
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Eddie, who had taken up the sport only a year earlier, was clearly out of his league competing against the world’s best. But his goofball personality and obvious love of the sport won over the crowds, who dubbed him Eddie the Eagle and made him a celebrity.
In Dexter Fletcher’s film, Eddie is played by Taron Egerton, who in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” played the street punk who becomes a sophisticated James Bond-ish spy. Here he’s virtually unrecognizable, hiding behind a blond mop, bottle-bottom eyeglasses and an expression of earnest bewilderment.
Far from being a suave secret agent, Egerton’s Eddie is more like Forrest Gump. He’s not feeble-minded, exactly, but he’s childlike enough to believe that dreams come true. And just bright (and lucky) enough to figure out how to get there.
The screenplay by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton plays fast and loose with the facts of Eddie Edwards’ life and quest for Olympic immortality. What it gets right, though, is their subject’s never-say-die determination.
In a brief prologue we see Eddie as a boy with “weak knees” and a leg brace that squeaks with every step. Despite a near-total lack of athletic ability, he obsesses about competing in the Olympics.
As an adolescent he becomes a fanatic of downhill racing, practicing on an artificial slope and becoming a member of the national ski team. But a year out from Calgary, he’s cut from the squad.
Realizing that Britain has no ski jumpers — the last one participated in the Olympics 60 years earlier — Eddie decides to fill that role. On his own dime — well, his parents’ — he travels to the Alps, where the world’s best jumpers train.
There he befriends Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a one-time Olympic jumper who is now a glorified janitor and alcoholic (and a fictional character). Resistance proves futile, and Peary agrees to coach him, lest the avid 22-year-old kill himself in a spectacular wipeout.
Together they overcome not only Eddie’s obvious physical limitations but also a sports bureaucracy that seems determined to keep him from competing.
Thanks to the charm of its two leading men — in Jackman’s case, gruffly amusing, in Egerton’s, wholeheartedly dweeby — “Eddie the Eagle” sucks in the viewers and leaves them cheering.
Director Fletcher — himself an actor with a long resume of London street-type characters — is no stylist, but he knows how to massage this material for every bit of pathos and humor.
Like Eddie’s real-life detractors, you can come to “Eddie the Eagle” to scoff, but you’ll leave uplifted.
Read more of Robert W. Butler’s reviews at butlerscinemascene.com.
‘Eddie the Eagle’
Rated PG-13. Time: 1:45.