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Eddie the Eagle: A Family Friendly, Feel-Good Antidote to the Times


20th Century Fox

David Ives - published on 03/03/16

Amid all the raging competition, it's good to be reminded about what really counts. More films like this, please!

If there is one simple truth everyone knows about Hollywood, it is that movie studios will go where they believe the money to be. So it’s little surprising to hear that, following the unprecedented box office bonanza of the R-rated superhero flick Deadpool, Warner Brothers has hinted they will release an R-rated version of their upcoming Batman v Superman movie to Blu-Ray.

Now, rather than launching into a thousand-word tirade over the entirely wrongheaded notion of making an R-rated Superman movie, I will take a different approach and encourage everyone to go see Eddie the Eagle, because if Eddie the Eagle turns a profit, Hollywood might make more movies like it. And the world would be a little nicer place with more movies like Eddie the Eagle in it.

Very, very loosely based on the early life of Michael “Eddie” Edwards, Eddie the Eagle recounts the story of the titular character’s pursuit to become an Olympic athlete in the sport of … well, any sport, really. As a young child, Eddie dreams of being an Olympian, but a bad leg and a complete lack of athletic ability conspire to thwart his ambitions. Undaunted, Eddie tries (and fails) again and again, hoping that each new sport will finally be the one to propel him to Olympic glory.

None of them do. But right when all seems lost, Eddie discovers a small glitch in the system that might just make all his dreams come true.

What Eddie learns is that in the sport of ski jumping, the only requirement to compete in the Olympics is that he land one successful jump in a recognized competition anywhere in the world. Do that and voila, he instantly becomes the sole member of Great Britain’s ski jumping team.

Of course, Eddie hasn’t a single clue how to be a ski jumper, but he never let that stop him before.

Dreams in hand, Eddie travels to a ski jumping school in Germany where, naturally, he receives nothing but ridicule from the Olympic athletes training there. Eventually, however, Eddie’s unwavering optimism and determination convince Bronson Peary, a one-time ski jump champion turned drunken groundskeeper, to reluctantly take the lad under his wing. Under Peary’s tutelage, Eddie lands his qualifying jump, but —  terrified that Edwards will be a national embarrassment — the British Olympic Committee quickly change the rules so that Eddie will have to land a jump twice as long as his first one in order to make the team.

So, Eddie and Peary are forced to take to the road to see if they can hone Eddie’s nearly nonexistent skills just enough to get him to Calgary in 1988. The rest, as they say, is history.

As a film critic, I know I should be picking at the seams of Eddie the Eagle. The direction is uninventive, and every single scene is more predictable than the one before it, the script never once straying from its clichéd “unlikely hero” formula. And yet walking out of the theater, I couldn’t have cared less about any of those things because this movie just made me feel so darn good.

Part of the movie’s charm is the acting. Taron Egerton as the wide-eyed milk-swigging Eddie and Hugh Jackman as the ever-irritable booze-guzzling Peary are never anything but pleasant to spend time with. Then there is the simple sheer relief of being able to take m y wife and child to a live-action movie that doesn’t feature a single instance of profanity, sex or violence and yet never lapses into boredom. But most of all, it’s just the character of Eddie himself.

Anyone who has ever tried to accomplish something only to discover they weren’t the best at it can empathize with Eddie. Let’s face it; at the end of the day, there can only be one first-place winner. That doesn’t mean you drop out of the competition, though. You keep going, with your only goal to be better than you were the day before, because you know that even if you finish last, you were still there.

As a Christian, that resonates. We Catholics adore our saints and do our best to emulate them, but in all honesty, 99.9 percent of us are never going to see our faces on a holy card. We stumble through life every day committing our petty sins and falling short of the glory of God. The best we can do is dust ourselves off, confess our sins, and get back in the game. Because in the end, we know our own one simple truth: even the guy who is the very last one to make it through the gates of heaven … is still in heaven. That’s worth all the falls and bruises along the way.

In a world he didn’t create, in a time he didn’t choose, one man looks for signs of God in the world by … watching movies. When he’s not reviewing new releases for Aleteia, David Ives spends his time exploring the intersection of low-budget/cult cinema and Catholicism at The B-Movie Catechism.

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