FACE IT: You're not fast enough to be Jesse Owens, and you don't have the willpower to train yourself to be. But if a 24-year-old British nerd who's never ski jumped before can ski jump in the Olympics, then (theoretically) anyone can!
That's the story of Eddie the Eagle, an exuberant crowd-pleaser about Michael "Eddie" Edwards, who had his 15 minutes of fame at the 1988 Calgary Olympics (the same year that saw the Jamaican bobsled team, which means this film shares a cinematic universe with Cool Runnings). As played by the unrealistically adorable Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Eddie is a socially awkward working-class lad who's had Olympic dreams his whole life despite having very little athletic prowess and no idea which particular event he should focus on. His sweet mother (Jo Hartley) gently encourages him; his pragmatic father (Keith Allen), a plasterer by trade, encourages him to become a plasterer.
Eddie eventually chooses the ski jump, only partially because the outdated eligibility requirements have made it comparatively easy to qualify (it's been decades since England participated in this event). With help from Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a washed-up (and fictional) American ex-jumper who's now a groundskeeper at a German training facility, Eddie sets his sights on the 1988 Games.
Despite all its underdog clichés—the drunken coach, the stuffy officials, the unsupportive dad, the taunting Norwegians—Eddie the Eagle succeeds for the same reason the real Eddie did: optimism, good humor, and infectious, heart-on-sleeve enthusiasm. Director Dexter Fletcher keeps the tone light without being silly, and Egerton's Eddie is a milk-drinking babe in the woods who's too naïve to know what he's doing is impossible, yet too resilient to be dismissed. That's a can't-miss formula for a sports movie, and sure enough, Eddie the Eagle sticks the landing.