Eddie The Eagle, film review: ‘Feel-good underdog tale starring Hugh Jackman’

Taron Egerton, left, stars as Eddie the Eagle alongside Hugh Jackman, right. Picture: Larry Horricks

Taron Egerton, left, stars as Eddie the Eagle alongside Hugh Jackman, right. Picture: Larry Horricks - Credit: Archant

If there is one thing the British excel at, it is plucky underdog stories. So it was inevitable that one day there would be an Eddie Edwards film, the man who after less than a year in the sport competed in the ski jump in the 1988 Winter Olympics. That it would feature Hugh Jackman was much less so.

Jackman’s role is the washed up, alcoholic American jumper who blew his potential and now, very reluctantly, finds himself training the guileless, clumsy, daft-as-a-brush, yet undoubtedly brave, Edwards. His task is to get Eddie through to the Olympics in Calgary and find ways for him to beat the snobbish reluctance of the British Olympic committee (McInnerny) to have anything to do with him.

His function is to be the ‘Yeah, right’ character, the lightening rod for all your incredulity as to the film’s veracity, and its tacit acknowledgment of all the liberties taken in this “true story”. (It is a bit shocking how much of this is absolute bunkum). This leaves audiences free to really identify with, and believe in the title character.

Egerton, star of Kingsmen, isn’t an obvious choice for the role but even if he doesn’t quite capture the Chuckle-Brother-on-skis incongruity of the real Eddie, he is unexpectedly engaging. He plays him as a British comedy composite.

He’s improbably heroic like George Formby or Norman Wisdom; innocently sexless like Charles Hawtrey, shocked and affronted when a lady comes on to him; as relentlessly positive and upbeat like Peggy Ollerenshaw in Hi De Hi, who is going to be a yellow coat one day.

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The actual Calgary Olympics were awash with feel-good underdog stories, and somewhere over the next mountain the Jamaican bobsleigh team, trained up by John Candy, was doing its Cool Runnings. Our British version is much superior: Egerton and Jackman get you to buy into the silliness and shamelessness of the film.

It’s a con, a trick, a piece of slick manipulation and afterwards you might feel a bit used, but you will be taken in.

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For a review of the blu-ray release of David Lean’s The Sound Barrier go to halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com.

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