As someone who experienced the best years of my youth from the late 1980s to the early/mid-1990s, I can recall many a highlight, from the thrill of a good snap bracelet, to the acquired taste of Atomic Fireballs, to Burple, a terrible drink made better by the accordion-style container in which it was sold.
Television and movies were also particularly memorable-it's not hard to reminisce about coming home from school to catch at least a small portion of The Disney Afternoon, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and/or The Real Ghostbusters as I happily devoured many a Quaker Chewy Granola Bar and stashed the wrapper under the TV stand for no reason whatsoever. It would not have been hard to walk the several feet to the garbage and deposit said wrapper where it belonged, and for this I apologize.
But movies...movies were never just "movies". They were a bonafide event, something you looked forward to in a way that mirrors how I anticipate them today. Nowadays, when a movie I'm excited about approaches the release date, I begin counting the days with baited breath, eager to see if it lives up to the mainstream hype or, at the very least, my own expectations. As a kid, however, there was something about going to the theater on a Saturday afternoon, taking your seat with large soda in hand and enjoying a newly-released film that created an atmosphere of a slightly heightened version of reality. You not only believed in what you were seeing on screen, you saw it as a window, one that you could easily step through had you been endowed with the magic movie ticket from Last Action Hero. Yes, I also saw that film as a kid. Yes, I had the soundtrack.
Looking back, I see now that the majority of movies I saw as a pre-adolescent were largely of the sports persuasion-films like The Mighty Ducks trilogy, Angels in the Outfield, Iron Will and Cool Runnings showcased Disney's consistent ability to tell the story of a scrappy underdog who wants to achieve greatness in their respective game(s). Even non-Disney studios managed to bring similar stories to the big screen, with Rudy and Hoosiers arguably being some of the standouts. It was a glorious time for this type of film, even if each film followed a similar, widely-known, format:
1. A team/athlete has a desire to win some major athletic event, despite their lack of ability/self-confidence.
2. It's probably based on a true story.
3. Many outsiders, usually family/friends/athletic rivals, believe they won't be able to reach their goal and make the team/athlete repeatedly aware of this.
4. A wise, possibly alcoholic, coach is convinced to lead the team/athlete. This coach is one who might have seen success in their field previously but following some difficult times now sees a chance at redemption.
5. Under their new coach's direction, the team/athlete starts to experience some success.
6. The team/athlete loses a major event leading up to the big event, and starts to doubt their potential.
7. An inspiring speech is given, either by the coach or some other important figure in the life of the main character(s) that causes the team/athlete to rally and give it 110%.
8. All this time, an inspiring, Jerry Goldsmith-esque score accompanies the action, rousing audience members into spontaneous applause, tears or laughter when one of the main characters engages in some much-needed, usually slapstick, comedy.
The rest of the movie...quite predictable. Just like Eddie the Eagle.
Did I care? I most certainly did not.
Eddie the Eagle takes every single sports cliche movie fans have grown to know and simply repackages it into a film starring the supremely talented Taron Edgerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) and the always-reliable Hugh Jackman as, respectively, Eddie Edwards, a true-life British underdog who had dreamed of Olympic glory since his childhood, and the coach who might just lead him there. In this case, Edwards has focused of ski jumping in the 1988 Winter Olympics following some minor success in downhill skiing, however his poor eyesight and non-experience in the sport eventually lead him to a renowned training facility where he meets Bronson Peary, portrayed by Jackman doing a watered-down impression of his own Wolverine portrayal. From there, things play out as expected-every character is presented as you'd expect them to be presented, every scene hits the same beats as mentioned above, and there's even (deliberate?) shoutouts to the films with which I grew up-hell, they directly mention the Jamaican Bobsled team at one point. Now, this can be excused as it was the same year the Jamaicans made their debut at the Olympics, but c'mon, there's even a shot towards the end of the film which seems directly lifted from Cool Runnings (I'll let you figure out which one).
And yet, Eddie the Eagle remains a compelling, lighthearted film, accompanied by an appropriately uplifting Vangelis-esque score and outstanding performance by Edgerton in the title role. In a stark contrast to the bad boy he played to great effect in last year's Kingsman, he seamlessly inhabits the character of Eddie Edwards as he peers down his nose through thick eyeglasses while relentlessly flying down a hill towards Olympic greatness. He remains one of my favorite newer actors, and much like Alden Ehrenreich in Hail, Caesar!, I can't wait to see what's next for him.
Eddie the Eagle may be nothing new, but like an old, comfortable jacket, it feels good and draws you in as the events unfold. You can almost see the way in which the cast and crew delivered a tried-and-true story with great affection that managed to place this reviewer right on the edge of his seat at times and left me smiling as I left the darkened Southgate Cinemas on a chilly Wednesday night.
Oh yeah, and Christopher Walken's in it. How about that?