Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Eddie the Eagle": Film-making by the Numbers

In Theaters on February 26, 2016

You would be forgiven for walking out of the theater and feeling like you’ve seen Eddie the Eagle before.  Thematically and in setting, the comparisons to fellow unlikely-Olympian film Cool Runnings are so unavoidable that the film can’t resist a direct reference to the Jamaican bobsledding team.  However, the winter sport this time around is ski jumping, and our hero is Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, and damn it all if that’s not about the only thing that distinguishes this film from any other feel-good underdog story.

Hum along if you know the tune.  Eddie (Taron Egerton in a remarkable likeness of the real Eddie) is an awkward outcast who never excelled as an athlete but is determined to compete in the winter Olympics, despite numerous influences in his life that tell him it can never happen.  When he is denied entry to the British skiing team based not on skill but on his working class status, he becomes determined to achieve at a sport the British Olympic team has no organized team for: ski jumping.  Enter Bronson Peary (a charismatic Hugh Jackman), a former Olympian whose lost potential career drove him to alcoholism and obscurity.  Bronson agrees to coach Eddie after a fashion, and the two become better and stronger people through their friendship.

As trite and by-the-numbers as the plot is, the film does at least become visually interesting at certain moments.  The film’s posters are quick to tell you that the film has the same producers as Kingsman: The Secret Service, and it shows when the film decides to highlight select key jumps.  Bronson’s chops-proving jump is particularly entertaining and other moments are well-served by clever editing and cinematography.

However, while the film isn’t without its chuckle-worthy moments, the script can be just downright cringeworthy at times.  Exposition is often redundantly spouted by multiple characters under the assumption that the audience will have forgotten key plot points after only seconds, and the film has an annoying reliance on flashback voiceovers to act as nagging reminders of why a situation is supposed to be tense or heartbreaking when it is entirely unnecessary.  And, though I don’t normally take notice of such things, the score is atrociously bad.  It’s primarily composed of synth music that is supposed to evoke the 1980s pop atmosphere but sounds instead like a retail job training VHS.  It was bad enough to be distracting, which is never a good sign for a film's musical accompaniment.

That said, Eddie the Eagle still functionally works, because this is the kind of film one can make in their sleep and still have it come out decent.  Like Cool Runnings before it, Eddie the Eagle is likely to become a junior high staple of inspirational dogma, another piece of trite inoffensive fiction to encourage the next generation to follow their dreams and et cetera.  And there’s really nothing wrong with that.  This is sure to at least please its audience in a rudimentary sense, as not every film needs to be a masterpiece of its genre.  Just don’t expect anyone to rush out and declare this the next big thing in cinema.

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