I remember watching the 1988 Olympics and the media's complete coverage of Eddie Edwards, the first ski jumper from Britain to compete in the international sporting event in decades. He came in dead last, by a lot, and I always thought that his appearance was the equivalent of a prank… good harmless fun but not meant to be taken seriously. It turns out there's a bit more to the story (but, granted, not a lot more) which is related in the biopic of the famous jumper Eddie the Eagle. As with many Hollywood sports films based on true events, this is a fun but lightweight movie that hits all of the numbers that one would expect.
As a young child, Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) became fascinated with the Olympics and dreamed of competing. The son of a laborer in England, he did his best to follow his dreams, trying out one sport and then the next until he saw someone skiing… that's when his passion really bloomed.
He was a good down-hill skier, but when the head of the British Olympic committee told him that he would never make the team he changed to another, related sport: ski jumping. The UK had not sent anyone to the Olympics in that category since 1929, and so all he needed to do was learn to jump and compete in any internationally sanctioned tournament. He didn't have to win, or even place. But first he had to learn how to ski jump.
Without a sponsor or government support, Eddie makes his way to Germany and the venue where the serious athletes train. There he meets Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), the alcoholic who tends to the slopes and ramps. Seeing that he is teased by the serious ski jumpers and unable to make a landing on anything but the smallest ski ramp, Bronson takes pity on the affable but incompetent Eddie and agrees to teach him some of the basics. And Eddie couldn't have a better teacher (Bronson refuses to let Eddie call him "coach") because the town drunk used to be the wunderkind of the US ski jump team until his cocky attitude caused him to be cut. In Eddie, Bronson sees the drive and determination to succeed that he never had, and also a chance to redeem himself.
This movie follows the pattern of Cool Runnings, another movie about an underdog team wanting to compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Both movies revolve around the trials and tribulations that beset the first team/person to compete in an Olympic event for their country, they both derive humor form the low-budget training, the main characters in the two films are largely shunned by the sports establishment, and both center around coaches looking for redemption. Oh yeah, the coaches in the two movies are both fictional characters too.
It's a safe bet if you enjoyed the movie about the first Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, you'll enjoy this one too. This film is light and breezy with just the right dramatic moments scattered throughout its running time to keep the viewer's attention. There's a good amount of humor that largely works, and in the end you'll be pulling for the plucky Eddie the Eagle too.
The biggest flaw is that, as with many sports-underdog movies, this one falls into the trap and making the plot points seem contrived rather than real. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they are made up rather than a strict retelling of history and that comes through. Events unfold in a predictable way that pulls viewers out of the film by thinking "did that really happen?" Of course, the answer is usually "no, it's poetic license" which almost seems like cheating. Still, it's a fun, family friendly movie about an underdog who just doesn't know when to quit.
The Ultra HD Disc:
As with other 4K releases, this set presents the film on a Ultra HD disc as well as on a Blu-ray.
The film arrives with the original 2.39:1 aspect ratio intact and with a nice looking 2160p transfer (most likely from a 2K master). The image looks very good, with lots of detail and a nice warm feeling (ironically, since it deals with a winter sport) to the skin tones. There is a bit of aliasing in a couple of scenes, and I noticed some light banding also, but these were very minor and most viewers (my wife for example) would not see them at all. The only real disappointing thing is that when comparing the 4K disc to the Blu-ray, there really wasn't much improvement in the picture. Yes, the Ultra HD image did have better definition but the difference wasn't like night and day.
The 4K disc boasts a Dolby Atmos audio track (with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core) that sounds very good, but not too exciting. There isn't really anything wrong with the soundtrack, it's just that the subject matter doesn't lend itself to an impressive soundstage. The jump scenes do a good job of placing the audience in the middle of the action, sonically speaking, but the rest of the film has a standard, albeit good, mix.
There are no extras on the 4K Ultra HD disc, they're all found on the Blu-ray, and pretty limited in any case. There's a standard behind-the-scenes piece that runs a bit over 45-minutes (and thankfully has not been broken up into a dozen 3-minute segments), a trailer, and an image gallery.
Eddie the Eagle is a fun and enjoyable film, even if it doesn't follow the historical events too closely. It's definitely worth checking out as long as your expectations aren't too high. Recommended.