Critics have compared the recently released “Eddie the Eagle,” starring Taron Egerton as a real life working class Brit who competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics to such triumph-of-the-underdog films as “Rudy” and “Cool Runnings” (which gets a shout-out since it’s held at the same Olympics), but when I was watching it, I was reminded more of the South Park episode “Ass-pen,” in which Cartman and Co. stumble into what appears to be an eighties’ teen movie on the ski slopes while their parents are trapped in a presentation on time sharing. Sitting through the movie is not as painful as being trapped in a time sharing lecture, but it really did resemble an Afterschool Special, though Taron’s character is in his twenties. The South Park episode also pointed out the invaluable piece of advice which is that if you want to train and compete in a sport for which you have little experience/expertise, you need a montage. “Eddie the Eagle,” has a lot of montages, all set to peppy eighties’ hits, including the ever reliable “takes a licking and keeps on ticking” montage. It even uses Van Halen’s “Jump,” after Taron lands a tough jump, but then I suppose the filmmakers couldn’t resist.
Of course, if you want to be a triumphant underdog in a Hollywood movie, you need more than montages, but luckily Taron is in luck. It helps to have at least one parent or adult in your corner, and here it’s his mum (Jo Hartley) who supports his dreams no matter what. Her ten-year-old son wants to catch a bus to the Olympics in the middle of the night? Hey, whatever floats your boat, kid. It’s the dad who disagrees, and because this is a movie, the belief that it’s better that your child find an interest that won’t leave him permanently disabled is treated as if it’s completely irrational. Luckily, after Taron decides to go to a German training camp to train in ski jumping for the Olympics, he gets inspiration from has-been ski champ, Hugh Jackman never seen in the early scenes without his flask. Hugh, in turn, is fighting demons from his training with his old coach, who is played by Christopher Walken who for whatever reasons, does not change his facial expression one iota, even when he’s finally holding out long-withheld approval. Overall, the movie is sweet and earnest and could have benefited from the black humor of the last ski movie I saw, which I think was “Better Off Dead.”
Basically, “Eddie the Eagle,” is “Forrest Gump” on skis. Taron’s character isn’t actually mentally challenged but because of his facial tics, naiveté, klutziness and the unrelenting disdain the bad guys in the film have for him, it occasionally comes off that way. Like Forrest, everyone Taron encounters in his quest is either amazingly supportive or plain evil. The exception is Hugh in the Lieutenant Dan role, who gets to experience a character arc from cynicism to wholehearted approval of the hero. The other movie I had flashbacks to was “Dirty Dancing,” because Taron gets to do a lot of lifts with Hugh while practicing. Luckily, at the Olympics, neither gets put in the corner, and everyone has the time of their life.