Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Eddie the Eagle, British actor Dexter Fletcher’s third directorial outing after Wild Bill and Sunshine on Leith, is a speedy, light-hearted biopic of the remarkable young lad from Cheltenham who took the ski jumping world by storm at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. A film which is both reassuring and a little disappointing in its compliance with standard triumph over adversity sports pictures, its formula is a tried and tested one which nevertheless hits all the right highs and lows to provide a familiar roller-coaster of a feel-good movie.
In a further departure from his roles in Kingsman and Testament of Youth, the versatile Taron Egerton embodies the plucky daredevil with aplomb, peering out with googly eyes from behind enormous glasses. Thankfully the representation avoids too great a sense of mocking or caricature and Egerton’s facial transformation – gurning expressions, jutting jaw – along with timid thumbs up and an awkward demeanour combine with burning determination to give his Eddie Edwards a boyish naiveté and innocence which is quite endearing. Hugh Jackman appears alongside him in a fictionalised role as Bronson Peary, a drunken, fallen angel of the American ski jumping team and – after some persuasion – Eddie’s coach. Despite working at a ski resort in Germany, Bronson is only ever seen in jeans and a black shirt, kept warm by the contents of his Star-Spangled hip flask. It’s a watchable turn from Jackman but his imagined character feels rather clichéd and underwritten.
Back at home Eddie’s mother (Jo Hartley) is supportive, his father (an irritating Keith Allen) is not, Tim McInnerny plays a sneering, supercilious pencil pusher of the British Olympic Committee, Jim Broadbent commentates and Christopher Walken makes a cameo as Peary’s former mentor. Unlike Eddie’s gutsy endeavours, none of the actors are taxed in any way here but the assembled team do their best with the material at hand. Eddie attempting to urge his father onside by saying “It’s not ballet!” as well as the mention of a certain Jamaican bobsled team recall comparable features but Eddie the Eagle doesn’t come close to its fleet-footed, Cool Runnings counterpart.
However, the garish decoration, synth and electro score and a soundtrack that flies from Thin Lizzy to Hall & Oates certainly rolls back the years and George Richmond’s camera paints everything just as bright and breezily as well. Legendary stuntman and coordinator Vic Armstrong brings his monumental expertise to proceedings, rendering the flights and crashes every bit as exhilarating and immediate as they would have been at the time. Fletcher’s latest effort behind the camera is a worthy tribute to Eddie Edwards that will leave audiences smiling. Just make sure you don’t try this at home.