Hollywood has never let a small thing like the facts get in the way of telling a story. This is the case with 20th Century Fox’s latest film “Eddie the Eagle,” which is more fiction than fact.
The story centers on Eddie Edwards who hopes one day that he will represent the British people at the Olympic Games. Edwards’s ambition grew from the time he was a child onto adulthood.
After trying out many different Olympic sports, Edwards (Taron Egerton) looks to skiing as something he could do. But while on the down hill team he is searching for sponsors to fund their way to the Olympics, he is kicked off the team for his clumsiness. While temporally defeated, he then sets his eyes on becoming a ski jumper.
He makes his way to Germany to train and eventually qualifies for the 1988 games in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. At the games, Edwards faces strong opposition from teammates and the members of the British Olympic Committee. Despite the difficulties, he shrugs them off to find his Olympic moment.
First impressions of this film left me with a warm fuzzy feeling as I left the theater and headed home. The key theme of the film is that if a person puts their mind to accomplishing a goal, anything is possible and that is true. That is reflected all the way through the film.
When I got home, I wanted to find out more about Edwards’ life and his determination to reach the mountaintop. After one search on Google, the Hollywood version of how Edwards made it to the Olympics starts to unravel like a cheap sweater.
The film really downplays the accomplishments made by Edwards prior to him switching sports. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Edwards started skiing when he was 13 years old and four years later was racing with the British National team. Edwards’ portrayal in the film shows him more as a bumbling oaf rather than a serious competitor. I find that fact very interesting because there are many athletes that have switched sports in order to try some completely different. To me, that shows the heart of a competitor.
In the film, Edwards gets inspired to become a ski jumper after watching a video of the sport. In the video, it states that all of the top jumpers train in Germany. So, Edwards packs his bags and heads to Germany. In Germany he meets up with former American ski jumper Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). Peary, who was kicked off the American team for his drinking and attitude, redeems himself by training Edwards.
This is the biggest liberty that Hollywood took in the story. According to Lake Placid News website, screenwriter Sean Macaulay said in an article Jackman played a fictional U.S. ski jumping coach who was inspired by some of the U.S. coaches who taught Edwards, who trained at Lake Placid.
Half of the film is about the relationship and friendship that is created between Edwards and Peary. The buddy-type of relationship between Edwards and Peary seems just a little too awkward. This type of on-screen relationship between coaches and athletes has been done better. One example is the 1993 film “Cool Runnings,” which tells the story of a Jamaican bobsled team who competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics as well. That film also has many, many factual errors. However, the audience could see the chemistry between the actors unfold on screen. In “Eddie the Eagle” that never really happens.
The other problem with this film is its overall presentation. This film has several spots where it is downright cheesy and pretty painful to watch. One scene in particular comes at the end where Edward’s father comes to greet Edwards at the airport. Throughout the entire movie Edwards’ father tells him over and over to give up and to get a real job. But at the end of the film, in a classic 1980s type of moment, his father appears wearing a sweater reading, “I’m Eddie’s Dad,” and says, “I’m proud of you son.”
Reading about the real events leaves me wondering why not just simply tell the real story. The real story is just as compelling and inspiring. If you happen to miss “Eddie the Eagle” in the theaters, it is not a huge loss. This film is rated PG-13 for some suggestive material, partial nudity and smoking and runs an hour and 46 minutes.
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