Review – Wolverine on Skis? (“Eddie the Eagle”)

Oh sure, you’ve seen lotsa movies about this. Cool Runnings, Personal Best, The 500 Pound Jerk and, of course, Chariots of Fire are just a few of the many movies about individuals overcoming tremendous odds and personal setbacks to get into the Olympics. So, what’s one more, right?

Based on true events and told like every “feel good underdog story” ever made, we see young bespectacled Eddie Edwards as a boy jonesing to be an Olympic star in any event possible. His loving “you can do it, Eddie” mum, (Jo Hartley) gives him all the love and support you’d expect, while his stern and working class “you’re a failure, Eddie” dad (Keith Allen) disapproves from day one.

Undaunted by his dad, Eddie (Taron Egerton) sets his sights at 21 to be an Olympic ski star after numerous attempts at other events fail miserably. He becomes quite proficient at skiing, but the hard-ass British Olympic Committee doesn’t like him because, well, he’s a goofy looking aviator-glasses wearing geek who is just too damn eager. But this kid’s not giving up and pushes them on the matter of Britain’s Olympic ski jump competition, something not done for decades. They agree just to shut him up and off he goes to train in Germany where he meets the evil Swedish team and the lovely Petra (Iris Berben), owner of the local saloon.

Eddie, without any coach to teach him, does great on the 15 meter jump, but needs help on the 40 meter and that’s where he meets Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). A former Olympic world-class jumper who’s now a drunken handyman, Peary reluctantly teaches the kid the art of ski flying after a verbal beat-down by the Swedes. Faster than you say, “Cue the montage scene”, Eddie and Peary start training hard. That’s good too, as those heartless Olympic British Committee bastards change the rules and demand that Eddie fly 61 meters just to qualify for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

Not willing to throw in the towel, Eddie perseveres and wins his trials in Germany, guaranteeing his spot in Calgary, much to the chagrin of the Olympic Committee. His 70 meter televised jump in Calgary is a hit and he’s proclaimed Eddie “the Eagle” by a sports announcer (Jim Broadbent), but it also makes him look like a sideshow attraction. After holding a impromptu press conference, he announces he’s not a buffoon AND he’s going for the super-scary 90 meter jump. Will he make it? Will the British Olympic Committee come around? And will Christopher Walken enjoy a small cameo as Peary’s former coach?

This 1980’s like made-for-TV script by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton (both first-time screenwriters) isn’t anything new. A-typical and, according to the real Eddie Edwards, “only based on 10-15% of my life; the rest was made up”, the only real thing going for this paint-by-the-numbers movie is the cast. You have Eggsy and Wolverine, I mean, Taron and Hugh playing around with their characters and having fun with them. Taron, looking like one of those geeky nerds you see at sci-fi cons, sells his part with exuberance. . . maybe just a little too much exuberance. Jackman, on the other hand, is just Jackman here without having to really strain himself with adamantium claws. A nice paycheck for him, I must say.

Director Dexter Fletcher (a novice director) does his best with the ski jumps, each one a dazzling CG or practical effect. He also does his best with varying camera angles, a nice change of pace from just your remedial point ‘n’ shoot directing like most newbie directors. And check out the movie’s musical score by Matthew Margeson; it’s a throw-back to the electronic synthesized music so popular with movies of the 80’s like you’d hear in Ghostbusters, Flash Gordon, or Beverly Hills Cop. So while this film doesn’t cover any new ground in Rocky-ish stories, it does have a nice nostalgic feel and warmth to it.           

 
 

Wee Geordie aka Geordie (1955)

*

*
One of Britain’s most prolific actors back in the 50’s and 60’s was Bill Travers, having starred in such memorable films as Romeo & Juliet, Born Free, Ring of Bright Water, Gorgo (Britain’s only monster movie), and this wonderful little slice of Olympic made-up history.
 
We start off in Scotland with a Geordie MacTaggart (Paul Young) as a “wee” (small) Scottish schoolboy. Although his best friend Jean (Anna Ferguson) does not mind his height, he sends for body building correspondence course offered by Henry Samson (like our own Charles Atlas of the 50’s comic books). Embarking diligently on Samson’s fitness program, by the time he turns 21, Geordie (Travers) he has grown into a tall, powerful, buff man. Jean (Nora Gorson), however, dislikes all his training time.
 

One day he gets a suggestion from Samson to try the Highland sport of ‘throwing the hammer’. On his first attempt, he almost hits the Laird (Alistair Sim) and later the local minister (Jack Radcliffe) who, it turns out, is knowledgeable about the sport and decides to train Geordie. After a disastrous Highland Games opening, he eventually wins, thanks to Jean’s encouragement and presence.

Naturally, members of Olympics selection committee see him and invite him to the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games in Australia. But Geordie is painfully shy and doesn’t want to go, but gets the extra boost from Samson himself (Francis deWolff). On the train ride there, he meets up with Helga (Doris Goddard), a Danish Olympic shot-putter and, although she’s got the hots for him, he still pines for Jean back home and is oblivious to her flirtations.
 
Complications arise at the Olympics when Geordie refuses to compete unless he wears his late fathers kilt, out of respect and love. Even though he is told he must wear a standard uniform, he refuses. The Olympic committee caves in and let’s him compete and, surprise! He wins! However, when Jean hears that Helga kisses him on the winners podium, she freaks out and ignores Geordie when he comes back home. Will true love save the day? What do you think?
 

Based on the novel by David Walker, the screenplay by Sidney Gilliat and director Frank Launder was an easy-going humorous slice-of-life adventure, very much like John Ford’s The Quiet Man, with it’s leading man and his rugged charm who’s in love with the beautiful red-haired leading lady who can’t accept that her man won’t be faithful to her. The rich Technicolor-like cinematography by Wilkie Cooper is quite good and the dialogue has a rich, Scottish texture to it.

Also known as Geordie, this movie has a great cast starting with Travers, who already had several films under his belt, and would go on to star in many others. Then you got Alistair Sim (the iconic Ebenezer Scrooge himself) as the Laird and really, who can ask for more? Trying to find this movie is quite difficult, as it’s only seen on TCM once in a blue moon or on Amazon Prime, if you pay for their service.

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