Skip to main content

The Englishman will die.

Eddie the Eagle
(2016)

Eddie the Eagle could easily have been as embarrassing as his presence was to the British Olympic team, had it been allowed to turn into a Norman Wisdom-esque, maximum gurning, comedy prat stick-tacular. Eddie would probably even have got the girl at the end. Which isn’t to say the movie has much in the way of fidelity to the facts (the real Michael Edwards said it was about 5% accurate), or that it doesn’t wallow in superficially conjured, cloying life-affirmation, but Dexter Fletcher’s third big screen directorial jaunt mostly surmounts the snares that come with the territory, thanks to a supremely winning and dedicated performance from Taron Egerton, one that makes you care about a real-life caricature.


The physical transformation is impressive enough; Egerton, the latest handsome young British export everyone wants for their next project, becomes a bit of a sight, all protruding jaw, ungainly physique and frightful whiskers. More than that, though, he fills in and adds substance to the broad strokes that are Simon Kelton and Sean Macaulay’s screenplay; I can only imagine how enfeebled this would have been with the rumoured Rupert Grint in the lead. Like a proper Rocky story, but by way of a very British loser, the writers give Eddie an even bigger mountain to climb than the real Eddie, in their “based on a true story”, and have him hampered at every turn by unsympathetic officials (personified by a magnificently snobby, elitist Tim McInnerny), advancing by dint of sheer doggedness and good-natured gumption.


It’s a classic aspirational, against-the-odds tale, seen in the same week as Zootropolis/ Zootopia/ Zoomania. Otherwise disparate in style and content, both find their protagonists’ parents and authority figures attempting to divert their heroes from the path to fulfilment (the makers tactfully leave out that Eddie failed to qualify for the ‘94 and ’98 Olympics because the spoil-sport committee raised qualification standards). Of course, Judy Hopps is actually really good at what she does, while Eddie gets points simply for showing up.


And being a character. We love a character, and so did the crowds and media at the ’88 Winter Olympics. The part about disgruntled team mates objecting to his stealing their thunder is dead-on, but Eddie the Eagle successfully pulls the trick of making Eddie both a clumsy, hapless, hopeless joke and a figure emblematic of purity of motive and intent. If that’s sentimental, well, it works.


Hugh Jackman’s (fictional; Eddie was actually trained by a couple of Americans) inebriated trainer is an unreconstituted cliché, and his plotline of redemption by way of a Chris Walken cameo is rather superfluous. Yet he has chemistry with Egerton, and the picture very much needed his type of mentor/ sounding board. Keith Allen and Jo Hartley are likewise integral as Eddie’s parents, inhabiting traditionally furnished roles of dissuasive dad and supporting mum. Fletcher, who sneaks in a cameo for his old Press Gang cohort Paul Reynolds… as a reporter… is sensible enough to let keep the performances front-and-centre, but knows exactly how to portray the vertiginous thrill of the jump, and only really shows off once, with a CGI-assisted Jackman 90-foot plunge.


Matthew Margeson (this being a Matthew Vaughn production, he previously co-wrote the Kingsman score) provides a jolly, upbeat ‘80s-styled synth soundtrack, exactly what you’d expect of Chariots of Fire if it accompanied a plasterer by trade. Which rather underlines that you’d be impossibly grouchy not to be pulled along by the picture, even as you recognise its posing represents an all-too familiar shorthand (and thus guaranteed export market) for the British film industry. Egerton is magnificent though, and is largely responsible for making Eddie the Eagle soar. A bit of a shame he’s soon going to be wasting his time on Robin Hood: Origins nonsense, then.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Your honor, with all due respect: if you're going to try my case for me, I wish you wouldn't lose it.

The Verdict (1982)
(SPOILERS) Sidney Lumet’s return to the legal arena, with results every bit as compelling as 12 Angry Men a quarter of a century earlier. This time the focus is on the lawyer, in the form of Paul Newman’s washed-up ambulance chaser Frank Galvin, given a case that finally matters to him. In less capable hands, The Verdict could easily have resorted to a punch-the-air piece of Hollywood cheese, but, thanks to Lumet’s earthy instincts and a sharp, unsentimental screenplay from David Mamet, this redemption tale is one of the genre’s very best.

And it could easily have been otherwise. The Verdict went through several line-ups of writer, director and lead, before reverting to Mamet’s original screenplay. There was Arthur Hiller, who didn’t like the script. Robert Redford, who didn’t like the subsequent Jay Presson Allen script and brought in James Bridges (Redford didn’t like that either). Finally, the producers got the hump with the luxuriantly golden-haired star for meetin…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

Never mind. You may be losing a carriage, but he’ll be gaining a bomb.

The Avengers 5.13: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station
Continuing a strong mid-season run, Brian Clemens rejigs one of the dissenting (and departing) Roger Marshall's scripts (hence "Brian Sheriff") and follows in the steps of the previous season's The Girl from Auntie by adding a topical-twist title (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum came out a year earlier). If this is one of those stories where you know from the first who's doing what to whom, the actual mechanism for the doing is a strong and engaging one, and it's pepped considerably by a supporting cast including one John Laurie (2.11: Death of a Great Dane, 3.2: Brief for Murder).

The simple fact is, your killer is in your midst. Your killer is one of you.

The Avengers 5.12: The Superlative Seven
I’ve always rather liked this one, basic as it is in premise. If the title consciously evokes The Magnificent Seven, to flippant effect, the content is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, but played out with titans of their respective crafts – including John Steed, naturally – encountering diminishing returns. It also boasts a cast of soon-to-be-famous types (Charlotte Rampling, Brian Blessed, Donald Sutherland), and the return of one John Hollis (2.16: Warlock, 4.7: The Cybernauts). Kanwitch ROCKS!

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

Who are you and why do you know so much about car washes?

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
(SPOILERS) The belated arrival of the Ant-Man sequel on UK shores may have been legitimately down to World Cup programming, but it nevertheless adds to the sense that this is the inessential little sibling of the MCU, not really expected to challenge the grosses of a Doctor Strange, let alone the gargantuan takes of its two predecessors this year. Empire magazine ran with this diminution, expressing disappointment that it was "comparatively minor and light-hitting" and "lacks the scale and ambition of recent Marvel entries". Far from deficits, for my money these should be regard as accolades bestowed upon Ant-Man and the Wasp; it understands exactly the zone its operating in, yielding greater dividends than the three most recent prior Marvel entries the review cites in its efforts at point scoring.

I freely chose my response to this absurd world. If given the opportunity, I would have been more vigorous.

The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
(SPOILERS) I suspect, if I hadn’t been ignorant of the story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee selling secrets to the Soviets during the ‘70s, I’d have found The Falcon and the Snowman less engaging than I did. Which is to say that John Schlesinger’s film has all the right ingredients to be riveting, including a particularly camera-hogging performance from Sean Penn (as Lee), but it’s curiously lacking in narrative drive. Only fitfully does it channel the motives of its protagonists and their ensuing paranoia. As such, the movie makes a decent primer on the case, but I ended up wondering if it might not be ideal fodder for retelling as a miniseries.

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
(SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison.

Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War, Infinity Wars I & II, Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok. It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions (Iron Man II), but there are points in Age of Ultron where it becomes distractingly so. …

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.