Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: Eddie the Eagle

I do not own the above image.  Copyright 20th Century Fox.  All Right Reserved.

            I am a sports junkie and have been most of my life.  I love the thrill of football on cool, autumn afternoons.  Weekend mornings are wonderful because of Premier League soccer.  And with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament coming up so fast, I need to dust off my HOOSIERS DVD to get fired up.  In the sub-genre of true sports dramas, EDDIE THE EAGLE is on the opposite end of the standings as that 1986 charmer.
            EDDIE THE EAGLE takes every single sports drama cliché and squeezes the joy out of them then glues them to the screen.  Physical disability during childhood?  Eddie Edwards (Egerton) has bad knees for about 10 minutes then are never mentioned again.  Funny looking?  Big glasses. Capital of Austria?  Vienna.  Dream that’s nearly impossible?  Participate in the Olympics.  Obscure sport?  Throws dart at wall, hit ski jumping.  Finds washed-up coach?  Ski jumper turned snowplow driver Bronson Peary (Jackman).  Coach’s sob story?  Ego ended career, turned to booze.  Insurmountable obstacle?  England’s arbitrary rules & guidelines.  Chicken or fish?  Lasagna.  The further into the movie we get, the more & more these clichés are milked.  And the more this went on, the angrier & angrier I got.  When the movie finally gets to the climax, I wanted to run down & tear the screen off the wall. 
            For most of the runtime, I sat in my seat wondering if Eddie was supposed to be autistic.  If so, Egerton’s performance mostly works.  He gets a bunch of his tics down pat & his mannerisms are consistent.  However, under this assumption, the villains are not only evil but also complete assholes.  The Great Britain Olympic Committee should sue for how they are portrayed here.  They are so conniving & sinister that Anton Chigurh would tell the Committee Chairman, “Calm down, friend-o.”  The animosity starts immediately at an athlete showcase for potential sponsors and only grows more intense & grotesque from there.  The verbal, semi-private dismissal was tolerable.  The arbitrary rule change?  Historically inaccurate & clichéd but understandable.  But the behavior by the Board & his fellow British athletes is appalling.  To treat a (perceived) mentally handicapped person as they do is degrading & embarrassing.
            On the flipside, what if Eddie isn’t supposed to be autistic?  For starters, Egerton’s performance is wildly off.  Now, he just makes Eddie look like an awkward buffoon in front of people in a Sheldon Cooper kind of way.  The worst offense to this is the early interaction with the single, middle-aged woman who owns the bar at the training site.  She hits on Eddie but Eddie doesn’t understand any of the double entendres she spits out.  The “Eddie-is-not-autistic” Theory also throws off how Eddie’s mother works as a character.  She appears to be the ever encouraging mother who believes 125% in her son’s hopes & dreams.  This, however, does not work very well if Eddie is normal mental capacity.  She just looks like the crazy person in the household, babying Eddie all the time.  As for Eddie’s dad, no matter the scenario he just comes off as a half-assed version of the disapproving dad trope.
            Looking past the paint-by-numbers script by Sean Macaulay (HITCHCOCK) and Simon Kelton, the movie look awful.  How many times have you exercised to Hall & Oates?  Well, you see Eddie have a training montage to “You Make My Dreams Come True”.  Director Dexter Fletcher also uses very bad CG for a lot of the ski jumping that sticks out like a sore thumb.  The brightness of the late 1980s styles makes this a real pain on the brain & the eyes.  Hugh Jackman uses his star power to the fullest as he tries to drag the viewer through the movie without injury.  He’s playing a clichéd character but lights up the screen every time he appears.

            EDDIE THE EAGLE is the kind of clichéd mess one should be accustomed to seeing in late February.  But it just lingers so mightily on those inspirational true sports story clichés like maggots on a wildebeest’s carcass.  The two leads, especially Jackman, try to keep the movie flying high but the constant beating of the sports movie tropes, lazy filmmaking & inappropriately sinister villain can barely keep this monstrosity watchable.


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