‘Eddie the Eagle’ could be a cooler ski-jumper story

Jesse Owens he wasn’t. British ski jumper Michael “Eddie” Edwards won no medals, placed last and peeved purists, who felt he made a mockery of their sport when he competed at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada.

Yet at the same time, Edwards displayed an enthusiasm that delighted spectators, especially when he flapped his arms like an eagle in his joy at being an Olympian. Such spirit earned him his nickname and folk-hero status.

“Eddie the Eagle,” a comedy directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton, dramatizes Edwards’ underdog story.

Those neither old nor British enough to be familiar with Edwards will learn what he accomplished, but nothing more, from this sugary, unadventurous depiction of an unconventional, potentially fascinating subject.

Introduced as a klutzy, bespectacled working-class kid whose weak knees cannot curb his Olympian aspirations, Eddie (Taron Egerton) pursues skiing as a teen.

A few years later, ejected by snooty Olympics officials from Britain’s downhill-skiing team, he takes up jumping. Because Britain has no other ski jumpers vying in the Olympics, he can participate in the games if he otherwise qualifies.

In Germany, Eddie trains in the dangerous sport and finds a reluctant coach in Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a boozing former jumper whose bad attitude destroyed his own Olympic chances. Unable to get rid of the determined Eddie, Bronson makes him a contender, sort of.

Eddie’s Olympic performance receives more attention for being offbeat rather than for his skill, prompting questions: Is Eddie a sideshow upstaging superior athletes, or is he an inspiring example of amateur spirit?

An appealing, quirky story and an actor’s dream of a character study lie somewhere in this tale of an unglamorous, underfunded son of a plasterer who risks everything to perform a 90-meter jump at the planet’s biggest sports contest.

Occasionally, Fletcher has loopy fun with Eddie’s quest. Training montages, which unfold to synth and 1980s pop music, are amusing. And the visual presentation of the daunting slopes Eddie tackles conveys the sport’s risks.

But the story, partly inspired by the bobsled comedy “Cool Runnings,” goes nowhere imaginative or risky, and the characters don’t transcend their initial cartoonishness.

Eddie, a grinning innocent with no apparent friends or love interests, remains that way. The movie doesn’t show what drives him, other than his obvious desire to prove his worth to those who ridicule him.

The fictional Bronson is a one-note bad boy who smokes, drinks, and, in a passage that brings to mind Meg Ryan’s famed restaurant scene, compares ski jumping to a sex act.

In a pivotal segment, Eddie tells reporters he is a serious athlete. But by presenting him with contrivances, the filmmakers don’t give him depth. Egerton and the usually electric Jackman can do little with such material.

The cast also includes Jim Broadbent, playing a sportscaster, and Christopher Walken, underused as Bronson’s estranged mentor.

Eddie the Eagle
Two stars
Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Keith Allen, Christopher Walken
Written by: Sean Macauley, Simon Kelton
Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
Rated PG-13
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Anita Katz

Recent Posts

Remediation is safe when done right

Success stories don’t always make the headlines. That’s especially the case for Brownfields vitalization—the revitalization of formerly impacted sites through…

4 hours ago

School board moves to increase charter school oversight

A resolution calling for more oversight and accountability for charter schools opening and operating in San Francisco passed unanimously at…

4 hours ago

Bonta Hill: With Garoppolo down, it’s time to evaluate, not tank

It’s amazing how one play can snatch excitement away from an entire fan base, and change the course of a…

4 hours ago

Uh oh! They’re using the “share” word again: Ford GoBike Expansion

San Francisco has a resource curse. We are walking, biking, and riding (and also sitting or lying) on the most…

4 hours ago

Two workout pals work to save endangered ostrich species

Stephen Gold, a San Francisco contractor, and Henry Cundill, a recent business school graduate got to know each other while…

4 hours ago

Ben Gibbard has fun making new music with old fans

Ben Gibbard could have been one of the saddest men in the world. The Death Cab For Cutie frontman’s surprise…

5 hours ago