The sports media found a doozy of an inspirational story in British ski jumper Michael “Eddie” Edwards, a working-class bloke with dreams of Olympic glory. Or it would have, had Edwards not finished dead last in two different events at the 1988 Games in Calgary — but whooped and flapped as if he'd won the gold.
Now Edwards' story has been packaged as Eddie the Eagle. A tacky embroidered sweater of a movie, it has the populist tone of those TV packages for the Olympics, only at 20 times the length. It tiptoes around the stickiest questions about Edwards' (Taron Egerton) legitimacy, invents a hard-drinking American coach (Hugh Jackman) out of whole cloth and covers most of its hero's athletic progress in a training montage set to Hall & Oates' “You Make My Dreams Come True.” Short of outfitting Edwards with a beer helmet as he careens down the inrun, the film's commitment to broad feel-good-isms is absolute.
From director Dexter Fletcher's perspective, there are only two types of people: those inspired by Edwards' plucky resolve and the Finnish snobs or bureaucratic prigs who insist that he's denigrating the sport. If there's a reasonable position somewhere in the middle — the person who admires Edwards' determination but respects the cruel meritocracy of athletic skill — Eddie the Eagle isn't aware of it. The hero is a jumper-come-lately dodging a future as a plastering apprentice; the villains are Olympians who have been honing their craft since the age of six. Unless their stories are colorful, their achievements don't matter. That's true of primetime Olympics broadcasts — and of Eddie the Eagle.