Despite a PG-13 rating, the British drama “Eddie the Eagle” is the type of athletic-themed, triumph-of-the-underdog story often pitched toward family audiences. However, younger members of the family will likely have some questions:
“Did this really happen?” Yes, kids, English ski-jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, he of the Coke-bottle glasses, really did compete in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. He finished last but became a media sensation.
“What came next for Eddie?” The movie does not say, perhaps because Edwards did not qualify for the 1992, 1994 or 1998 Olympic Games, recorded a couple of songs in Finnish, and appeared on some U.K. reality shows.
“Who is (Eddie’s crush) Bo Derek?” Ask your grandpa.
Questions aside, “Eddie the Eagle” is an unoffensive, mostly amiable affair. Not as funny as “Cool Runnings” or as emotionally resonant as “Miracle” or “Rudy,” “Eddie the Eagle” is an occasionally diverting entry in this genre.
Yet from top to bottom, the film feels slight. Part of the issue is “The Eagle” himself. As played by “Kingsman” star Taron Egerton, Edwards is a goofy, rather dull figure. Appearance-wise, think Bubbles from “Trailer Park Boys,” but more fit.
Rising star Egerton is fine. He’s self-consciously goofy, like Ryan Gosling in “Lars and the Real Girl” – a star with matinee idol looks playing the geek. And that makes it hard to completely buy him in the role.
We first meet Eddie as a youngster still recovering from knee issues. The boy in the leg braces dreams of Olympic glory, however unlikely that seems. His mother (Jo Hartley) and father (Keith Allen) are split, with dad urging Eddie to move on and embrace a trade.
The life of a plasterer does not call to him, though. Eddie first embraces downhill skiing, and then realizes that ski-jumping could be his real ticket to the Games. He makes his way to a training camp in Germany, and our film truly begins.
The scenes in Germany are among the film’s best, as Eddie awkwardly makes his first attempts at jumping and meets a grizzled, drunken former ski-jumper. This is (the entirely fictional) Bronson Peary, and he is played by the always entertaining Hugh Jackman.
The remainder of the film follows the rag-tag-team-strives-for-glory formula point by point. And there are moments that truly connect; it’s hard not to enjoy the scenes of Jackman’s Peary telling Edwards to imagine making love to Bo Derek while making his jump.
But from this point on there are no surprises in store. Dexter Fletcher’s direction is pedestrian at best, and the appearance of acting heavyweights Jim Broadbent and Christopher Walken is appreciated, but in the latter case, utterly bizarre. (The iconic Walken appears in just two very strained scenes as Peary’s former coach.)
According to The Guardian, the real Edwards told the BBC that the film is “only 10 to 15 percent” accurate, and the chief bit of fiction is the creation of Peary. Thank goodness for it, as Jackman’s star-power and inherent likability adds a great deal. Jackman’s résumé of late is utterly bizarre – the unfairly despised “Pan,” the fairly despised “Chappie” – but here he seems to be having a blast.
It is worth noting again that the film carries a PG-13 rating, and that’s a shame. Yes, Peary smokes throughout the film, and there’s the talk of love-making, as well as implied Finnish nudity. (You read that correctly.)
The rating is warranted, and that means family audiences might steer clear. That means the younger viewers who might enjoy “Eddie the Eagle” most are unlikely to see it.
In any event, “Eddie the Eagle” is certainly no disaster, and provides modest enough entertainment for one viewing. But the best films in this genre stand up on repeat viewings. Like Eddie’s Olympic history, once is enough.
“Eddie the Eagle”
Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken, Jim Broadbent
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Running time: 105 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive material, partial nudity and smoking
The lowdown: The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski-jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics.