One of Eddie the Eagle's many training montages is set to the toe-tapping refrains of Hall & Oates' 'You Make My Dreams'. For an '80s-set film about a sporting wannabe trying to achieve Olympic glory, it's an appropriate choice in a multitude of ways. It's also rather clichéd. Still, it fits — and the feature knows that it's obvious, making it even more apt. That's Eddie the Eagle in a nutshell: a bit cheesy but completely aware of that fact, and utterly warm and enjoyable as a result.
Those who aren't up to date on their British sporting history might be surprised to discover that Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) changed the face of the nation's ski jumping team. Actually, he was the face of the nation's ski jumping team. After struggling to become a downhill skier, the good-natured lad turned his attention to soaring not only down the snowy slopes but through the frosty air as well. England didn't have any other competitors in the field that year. In fact, they'd never had any competitors in the field in any year. But with his dad (Keith Allen) far from impressed, his coach (Hugh Jackman) a heavy-drinking, washed-up former athlete, and his own experience severely lacking, Eddie's Olympic quest wasn't exactly easy.
Eddie the Eagle is a crowd-pleaser through and through — and while the term can sometimes have not-so-flattering connotations, that isn't the case here. Indeed, much of the film's success springs from director Dexter Fletcher's happy embrace of the tried-and-tested sports movie formula. While plenty of liberties have been taken with the truth to bolster the film's feel-good credentials, they all suit the story. If only sticking to the inspirational underdog playbook was always this entertaining.
Fletcher seems to be following a specific train of thought: if it worked for Cool Runnings, which told of another against-the-odds story at the exact same Winter Olympics, then it can work here too. The actor-turned-filmmaker even nods to the Jamaican bobsled team, and to his own background around the same time, courtesy of a brief appearance from one of his late '80s Press Gang co-stars. Accordingly, his feature isn't just lazily throwing together the usual elements and hoping that something sticks. It's doing so knowingly with a wink, a nod and a smile, and while wearing its retro style and upbeat cheer on both sleeves.
A number of other factors assist the all-round amiable effort enormously, including broad but winning performances by Egerton and Jackman in vintage earnest protégé and reluctant mentor mode, respectively. Add a canny splash of visual spectacle, a well-earned sense of genuine tension during the jumping scenes, and other time- and theme-appropriate tunes on the soundtrack, and Eddie the Eagle soars.