Setting out to prove them wrong when they said you couldn’t do it can be a powerful motivation.
Take, for instance, Eddie Edwards, an adept downhill skier cut from the British team because “he was not Olympic material.” To be sure, Edwards had an image problem. Something of an eccentric, he looked like Napoleon Dynamite auditioning for the lead in “The Gary Busey Story.”
Undeterred, the unlikely competitor switched to the ski-jump, for which the Brits had no participants. Quickly becoming adequate, his place on the team should have been guaranteed, but a classist hierarchy changed the rules in an attempt to exclude the thickly-bespectacled fellow. Edwards managed to find a loophole and, while he finished last in Calgary, his underdog status won him the hearts of his countrymen.
It would be hard to screw up an inspirational story like that, so the mark of a good film is the value-add. Taron Egerton (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”) does a great job bringing the indomitable Edwards to life, and we root for him from the time his leg braces come off as a child through his insane 90-meter jump in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Parts of this one are formulaic (dad wants Eddie to get serious and take a real job while mom secretly enables him, that’s “Breaking Away” and probably a dozen other plots) though when it’s sappy, it at least feels authentic.
Director Dexter Fletcher adds a few characters to Edwards’ tale. Iris Berben as pub-keeper Petra has probably one of the best lines explaining why so many of the athletes who come to her German bar over-imbibe: “It’s the good German beer and not pee-pee water you drink at home.” (The accent is what sells it.)
And, of course, there is the requisite unfulfilled ex-athlete now resident boozer working the slope grooming tractor who’s reluctant to mentor our protagonist. That would be Wolverine Hugh Jackman, here rocking an “American” accent. (This film hooked me when drunk, Jackman launches from a 90-meter platform with a cigarette in his mouth and Thin Lizzy’s “Cowboy Song” playing. It was, as they say … a moment.)
A pleasant and spirited film whose highlights are, like the “Wide World of Sports” in days of old, the agony of defeat; in other words, the jumps are spectacular but the crashes are epic.
Christopher Walken co-stars.
How about “Tallulah?”
There’s a familiar vibe to the story of Eddie the Eagle … fans of the 1990s John Candy feel-good comedy “Cool Runnings” will think so, anyway. In fact, if you listen carefully to the Olympic announcer after one of Eddie’s jumps, he says something along the lines of, “Next up, the Jamaican bobsled team.”
Yes, there really was one, though “Cool Runnings” took some liberties with their story. Essentially, Irv Blitzer (Candy) was a disgraced former gold medalist recruited by an infinitely optimistic persistent ill-equipped ragtag troupe of would-be athletes. In spite of the odds, he gets them to Calgary where their showing is almost comical if it wasn’t so sentimental.
Director Jon Turteltaub (“National Treasure”) found just the right amount of humor and pathos to draw out one of Candy’s best performances in his all-too-short career. One of the funniest exchanges takes place when the Jamaicans first arrive in the frigid Great White North. One asks, “What you smoking, mon?” The other replies, “I’m not smoking, I’m breathing!”