Disney has done consistently well when it comes to its live-action films and adaptations of feel-good true stories — sports stories in particular. These films are not always Oscar-worthy entries, nor are they guaranteed to necessarily stay exactly true to their source material, but they have just enough truth to make them compelling, and they are told in a warm, family-friendly, completely satisfying fashion. If there was ever a story that seemed destined for treatment by The Mouse, it would be the life and times of Michael “Eddie” Edwards, an unlikely ski jumper in the 1988 Winter Olympics where he was dubbed “Eddie the Eagle.”
The Disney film by the same name features Taron Egerton (Kingsmen: Secret Service) as Edwards, an awkward young Englishman with dreams of being an Olympian. The story begins following Edwards in childhood, showing us a boy with Coke bottle glasses and a brace on one leg. The brace eventually comes off, the glasses stay firmly in place, and little Eddie begins his quest to become an Olympian — in any sport he can find.
After trying and failing at every track and field event, Eddie settles on the idea of the Winter Olympics and downhill skiing. In that endeavor, Eddie finds his calling, becoming one of the best downhill skiers in the country (the real-life Edwards was ranked ninth in the world in the downhill speed skiing event and narrowly missed being named to the 1984 Winter Games).
After being shunned by the British Olympic Committee because his thick jaw and thicker glasses do not meet the standard of television-ready charisma, Edwards decides to abruptly change disciplines and qualify in an event with no other competition to be passed over for: ski jumping.
Nobody wants to train him since he is too big and about 20 years too old, so Eddie starts training himself as best he can until he meets former U.S. Olympic ski jumper Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). Perry has fallen on hard times and is living his days as a drunken groundskeeper for a German ski training facility. Sports-buddy movie hyjinks ensue, culminating in Eddie’s appearance at the ‘88 Games in Calgary, despite the wishes of the stodgy British Committee.
Again, with the broad strokes of the story, Disney plays loose with the truth in the name of a compelling story. This is an inspirational film, not a documentary. But within that construct, “Eddie the Eagle” is an incredibly fun viewing experience. Egerton is great as Edwards, and Jackman is charming in just about everything. The film stays fun and light and does a good job at capturing the zeitgeist of Eddie’s Calgary appearance.
However, the thing that might come away as being regarded as the best part about the film is Matthew Margeson’s score. Synth-heavy and atmospheric, the music in “Eddie the Eagle” perfectly captures the feel of a mid-’80s movie better than perhaps any film since the actual 1980s, and it goes a long way to contributing to the fun, light, exciting experience of the film itself.
Do not go to “Eddie the Eagle” expecting complete, slavish historical accuracy. Do not go expecting to see an early contender for 2016’s awards season. Instead, take your mom, take the kids, and go see “Eddie the Eagle” because it is one of the more guiltlessly fun films you are apt to find until summer comes around. CV