“Eddie the Eagle”
Why is it that the American public seems to reject inspiring films? Does everything have to be a cross between “Star Wars,” “The Avengers” and “Jurassic Park”?
Why wouldn’t you want to see a film about a little guy who becomes a folk hero even though he finishes last in a major athletic competition, which is a roundabout way of strongly suggesting that you take the time to see director Dexter Fletcher’s “Eddie the Eagle.” Based on a true story concerning British ski jumper Eddie Edwards and his participation in the 1988 Calgary Olympics, you are reminded that it is the spirit of competition that defines a true champion, not the person who wins a medal.
While the movie starts out a bit slow, it catches speed at the same time that Eddie captures your heart. Eddie is an only child growing up in a working-class English family. He has a loving, tender mother (Jo Hartley) who allows him to pursue his dream of becoming an Olympic champion even as his father (Keith Allen) urges him to reject his fantasy and follow him in the plastering business.
With his dream of becoming an Olympic skier falling short, he suddenly realizes that England has not had an Olympic ski jumper since 1929. Having absolutely no experience competing in that dangerous sport, he sets his sights on achieving the impossible.
Faced by a surly Olympic Committee that keeps raising competition standards with the expectation that he would fail to meet them, he decides to pursue competition throughout Europe with the hope of making a dream come true. In the process, he falls under the guiding wing of Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), an angry man who danced on the edge of greatness in the ski jump years earlier before falling short. He now embraces alcohol as a full-time sport.
The strength of the film flows from the relationship of Eddie and Peary, and Eddie’s dogged determination eventually wins over his new coach, who seldom is without a cigarette or a flask. As expected, Jackman is persuasive in his role, but it is Taron Egerton who dominates every scene as the 22-year-old Eddie.
If you stick around for the final credits, you will see that Egerton has adopted a physical appearance that closely resembles the real-life Eddie. Interestingly, Eddie is not a physically attractive young man, which is a long way from the dynamic characters Egerton played in two films I loved from 2014, “Kingsmen: The Secret Service” and “Testament of Youth.”
If you still harbor some doubt about this film, I urge you to reflect on history and remember that Eddie participated in the 90-meter jump at Calgary, an event that he had never practiced. He became a legend at those Olympics simply because he found a way to land without killing himself, and the actual cheers from the crowd will bring a tear to your eye.
“Zootopia” is a colossal film on multiple levels that will have an enormous impact on viewers regardless of their ages. It is a warm, funny and moving drama that is clearly destined for greatness.
As I accurately predicted after seeing “Inside Out,” I firmly believe “Zootopia” is destined to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film of 2016. Furthermore, look for “Try Everything,” a powerful song by Shakira, to also win an Oscar for Best Original Song.
As for the story itself, it concerns a little female rabbit known as Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) who wants to pursue her dreams of leaving the family farm and becoming a police officer in the legendary city of Zootopia. This is a city that preaches the mantra that all animal citizens are to respect all other citizens regardless of their background or reputation. Trouble erupts when animals start to disappear, and Hopps ends up on one of the most captivating adventures you are going to see in any film, live action or animated.
Graduating first in her class from the police academy, Hopps’ desire to become a detective is thwarted by her boss, a brahma bull known as Chief Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba). He sees her as little more than an annoying female rabbit, and assigns her to write tickets for parking infractions. Swallowing her pride, she accidentally develops a heartwarming relationship with Nick Wilde, a fox voiced by Jason Bateman. Though he is little more than a street con artist, the two become a team and end up on a mission that takes them in way over their heads.
To fully understand the magnificence of this film, begin by contemplating the breathtaking art direction that permeates the film from beginning to end. Secondly, the genius of screenwriters Jared Bush and Phil Johnston is demonstrated when our anxious heroes are confronted at a Department of Mammal Vehicles run by tree sloths. You will laugh until you ache.
Interestingly, the film has two important subliminal messages. The first is that all young people need to pursue their goals in life. Sure, there are going to be some hardships along the way, but everyone will regret succumbing to complacency. The idea is to keep your spirit and not give up, and that attitude we see displayed by Hopps.
In addition, this movie serves as a commentary on the state of our own country today. In “Zootopia,” you have political leaders trying to build reputations on nothing more than promoting fear of other animals, and that is exactly what we see occurring during our presidential primary season. Just as the citizens of Zootopia were urged to suspect and be fearful of lions and tigers and bears, aren’t some politicians encouraging us to do the same thing with regard to Muslims, Syrian refugees and Hispanic immigrants?
The lesson learned in “Zootopia” is that a solid, healthy society is built on dignity and respect, not suspicion and hatred. Are you listening Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz?•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.