‘Eddie the Eagle’ soars high

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Eddie the Eagle (2016)

Directed by Dexter Fletcher

In the 1976 song “Fly Like an Eagle,” Steve Miller sings “let my spirit carry me.” Not wind, not gravity, spirit. “Eddie the Eagle” understands that. The amazing true story of Great Britain’s record-setting Olympic ski jumper, who overcame adversity throughout his life, “Eddie the Eagle” soars with heart and humor. In the subgenre of inspirational sports movies, many quickly become tacky or boring. Most of them, probably. So I’ve become something of a cynic. “Eddie the Eagle” reaffirms my belief that inspirational movies can be inspirational. “Eddie the Eagle” is joyous and uplifting. It’s the “Rudy” of ski jumping movies. It’s good for the soul.

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As a young boy in the 1970s, Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton) dreamed of being an Olympian. He practiced holding his breath underwater, throwing javelin, and jumping hurdles, but eventually discovered he was a decent skier. When he was denied acceptance on the British downhill skiing team, Edwards tried his luck at ski jumping. For the past four decades, Great Britain hadn’t had an Olympic ski jumping team. So if he could reach a certain, relatively short, distance, he qualified. He’d go to Calgary for the Winter Olympics. But he wiped out more often than not, until he got the help from washed up former American ski jumper and current alcoholic Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). Together they’ll try to fight the system keeping the kooky Cockney kid from making the esteemed British squad and squash the low expectations the world had set on him.

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Taron Egerton had a breakout year in 2015, starring in “Testament of Youth,” “Kingsman,” and “Legend.” Here, he finds the real heart in his awkward character. He’s an unforgettable sports movie protagonist. Egerton is funny and full of spirit. Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, doesn’t have such luck. His character is flatly written, an alcoholic stereotype, and Jackman doesn’t do anything to bring him to life. Jackman is stiff. He lets his Aussie accent slip into his American character’s dialogue. But despite that—and it is annoying—“Eddie the Eagle” maintains its entertainment. An ‘80s-inspired, synth-infused score by Matthew Margeson (“Kingsman”) is the perfect fit for this sports comedy. Christopher Walken also makes an appearance. “Eddie the Eagle” is a fun, heartwarming true story that never gets tripped up on tacky clichés. It’s worth cheering.

7/10

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