PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


In 'Eddie the Eagle', Christopher Walken Is the Best Right Thing

Earnest and naïve, less cute than aggressively geeky, Eddie is something of a walking punchline in his own movie. And then he meets Bronson Perry (Hugh Jackman).

Eddie the Eagle

Director: Dexter Fletcher
Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken, Tim McInnerny, Rune Temte, Edvin Endre, Jim Broadbent, Graham Fletcher-Cook
Rated: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2016
US date: 2016-02-26 (General release)
UK date: 2016-03-28 (General release)

"I think we both know you've gone as far as you can go." It's 1987, and Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton), in the midst of trying out for the British downhill skiing team, has just knocked down the entire assembly of hopefuls posing on their skis for a photo. It's a goofy image, the skiers all falling like dominos, and a sniffy team official puts his foot down, declaring the limit of the perennially awkward and optimistic Eddie's ambitions.

Or not. The 20-something Eddie is briefly dejected during these early moments of Eddie the Eagle, heading home to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, where he rips the ski posters off his bedroom walls while his dear mum (Jo Hartley) proffers a nice cuppa tea. The ripping ritual reveals yet another option, as Eddie spots an Olympic ski jumping image beneath a downhill poster. That's it!, he decides then and there. He'll make the ski jumping team.

Indeed, he makes that team rather literally, as it doesn’t exist. Eddie heads to Lake Placid to train, where he meets a German team comprised of cocky young doubters and an endlessly helpful lodge owner, Petra (Iris Berben), who discovers the determined but utterly broke Eddie snoring in her closet. She offers him a job wiping tables and leans in close, her fingers on his chest: "Maybe sometime, I come to visit you at night." Eddie, his eyes wide behind his coke-bottle glasses lenses, stutters and puts her off. He's only here for the ski jumping.

Earnest and naïve, less cute than aggressively geeky, Eddie is something of a walking punchline in his own movie. And then he meets Bronson Perry (Hugh Jackman), former US Olympic ski jumper, gifted and once legendary athlete, now drunk every day, chain-smoking and maintaining the ski jumps at the training facility where Eddie happens to have landed. Several crash montages and slow motion jumping sequences later, Eddie convinces Bronson to be his unofficial trainer, to prepare him for the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Here the film -- based on a true story -- fudges some of the details in that story, omitting that Eddie was rather an accomplished jumper when he went to Calgary. Instead it presents him as a hapless, lucky, and indomitable underdog, succeeding at jumps he has no right even surviving. While Bronson goes through the risks and describes the instincts and skills needed to master this sport, and the film shows a few jumpers wrecking and being carted off unconscious and limp, Eddie the Eagle is not so interested in the actual dangers or consequences of the sport. Leaning on Matthew Margeson's relentlessly upbeat soundtrack and skipping past the broken bodies, it showcases Eddie's training with Bronson, who encourages him to imagine having perfectly timed sex with his favorite movie star, Bo Derek. By the time "Bolero" pops up on the soundtrack, well, you're more than primed for the slow motion jump, with Eddie's very intent facial expression.

As much as you get this is a conventional sports underdog movie, and as annoying as the clichés and Egerton's exaggerated performance may be, the film does a couple of things right. One, it knows it's exactly that movie and never pretends to be otherwise. It slams home the usual moral messages (Work hard! Never give up! Believe in yourself! Flap your arms like an eagle!) and offers up a predictable array of supporting cast members -- including the arrogant British Olympic Association official (Graham Fletcher-Cook) and Eddie's own unsupportive working-class dad (Keith Allen) -- who must learn lessons.

Eddie the Eagle doesn't care that all this is corny. It's addressing the ten-year-olds in the audience, no matter their actual ages.

And two, Hugh Jackman. He manages to be Broadway here, bombastic and maybe just maybe on the verge of bursting into song, but also a little modulated. The part is showy and the reaction shots are rote, but still, Jackman manages to be surly while also soft, frustrated but vaguely amazed. As always, which is to say, as in Van Helsing or the X-Men franchise or even in Real Steel, Jackman is essentially grand at performing loss and recovery simultaneously. He's convincing when he's corny, compelling when he's cynical. You can't not look at him.

As Bronson, Jackman has help, too, from the film's third and best thing done right: Christopher Walken. As Bronson's former coach Warren Sharp, a father figure whose disappointment is visible on the cover of his memoir, which Eddie carries throughout his adventures, Walken provides a subtle gloss on all the antics. It's a "good book", Bronson and Eddie agree, and when at last Sharp makes his appearance in Calgary -- as you know he will -- Walken's face serves as the ideal, profound reflection of Eddie and Bronson's several emotional transitions, from scared to astounded to exasperated to elated. Walken glides into this film like the perfectly nuanced dancer he is, showing what it can be to perform without limits.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.