Eddie The Eagle
20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 for smoking, partial nudity and suggestive material
Against-The-Odds Saga Chronicles Exploits Of Underdog Ski Jumper At The 1988 Winter Olympics
Growing up in Cheltenham, Michael Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) would tell anybody who would listen that he would be an Olympic athlete one day. Although mercilessly teased by playmates and barely tolerated by his skeptical father (Keith Allen), the boy seized on the unwavering encouragement of the very supportive mother (Jo Hartley) who would feed his seemingly-unreachable dream.
Despite being extremely farsighted, born with an underwhelming physique and betrayed by bad knees, Eddie pursued a variety of track-and-field events over the course of his formative years. But when none of those panned out, he eventually tried downhill skiing with hopes of representing England in the Winter Games.
However, after failing to achieve world-class status racing, he turned his attention to jumping where he would have absolutely no rivals, since his country hadn’t competed in that sport since the ’20s. So, he ventures to Germany, one of the handful of countries with the requisite training facilities.
There, Eddie begins his quest under the careful tutelage of Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a disgraced American jumper in need of redemption. First, he must complete a couple of 60+ meter jumps to meet the Olympic’s minimum entry requirements.
Of course, that proves easier said than done, for it takes not only skill but a lot of courage to plunge headlong down a long ramp and launch yourself into thin air. Furthermore, the key to success includes mastering what Bronsan refers to as the “Jumper’s Paradox,” the counter-intuitive imperative to lean forward while in the air, which is just the opposite of the natural instinct to straighten up.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher (Wild Bill), Eddie The Eagle is a heartwarming, overcoming-the-odds adventure recounting the real-life exploits of a lovable underdog who became a crowd favorite during the ’88 Olympics stage in Calgary. Though initially content just to participate in the Games, Eddie becomes more ambitious the better he gets.
Ironically, the movie makes a passing reference to the Jamaican bobsled team, another long shot which developed a following in Calgary. Their exploits were recounted in Cool Runnings (1993), a picture very similar to this one in many respects.
A sentimental tearjerker which manages to make you weep, even though you see the manipulation coming a mile away.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English, German and Norwegian with subtitles
Running time: 105 minutes
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes and ethnic slurs
Inspirational Biopic Recounts Jesse Owens’ Triumphs At 1936 Berlin Olympics
Jesse Owens (Stephan James) is famous for winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics staged in Berlin. The track and field events in which he competed included the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the long jump and the 4×100-meter relay race.
What makes Owens’ feat remarkable is that he had to overcome not only racism at home but the prejudice he encountered in Germany which had embraced Nazi notions about whites being a master race. So, not only did he have to deal with discrimination in the States but prejudice on the part of Adolf Hitler (Adrian Zwicker).
Directed by Stephen Hopkins (Lost In Space), Race is a character-driven biopic which has much more to offer than an account of Jesse’s historic assault on the record books. For, in addition to recreating the tension surrounding each of the contests, the picture devotes considerable time to fleshing out the protagonist’s personality.
As the film unfolds, we learn about Jesse’s humble roots in Cleveland, and that he was the first of his family’s 10 children to attend college. When he left for Ohio State, he already had a baby (Yvanna-Rose Leblanc) with Ruth Solomon (Shanice Banton), the childhood sweetheart he would eventually wed and remain married to until his death in 1980.
At the university, Jesse forged a close relationship with his track coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), who also served as something of a surrogate father. And when his confidence was being undermined by bigoted officials on the U.S. Olympic Committee, Snyder decided to pay his own way to accompany his promising protégé to the games in Berlin.
There, Jesse was shaken to be greeted with the N-word. He was equally shocked by see signs in stores declaring “No Jews or dogs allowed.” Nevertheless, he managed to block out the madness all around him while concentrating on performing in the Olympic stadium to the best of his ability.
Jesse’s prevailing over Aryan athletes infuriated Hitler who refused to shake his hand, as was the proper protocol, at least with white gold medal winners. Despite pressure from the Fuhrer and his henchman Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat) to follow suit in the snub, German long jumper Carl “Luz” Long (David Cross) went out of his way to embrace the champion ostracized on account of his skin color. (Postscript: The two remained friends until Carl perished while fighting on the front lines in World War II.)
Regrettably, Jesse’s reception back home wasn’t much better, given how the White House never publicly acknowledged his remarkable achievement. A very inspiring, long overdue tribute to a great patriot and African-American icon.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English and German with subtitles
Running time: 134 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening February 26, 2016
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Backtrack (R for profanity, violence and disturbing images) Psychological thriller about a shrink (Adrien Brody) who starts questioning his own sanity after discovering that his patients are ghosts. With Robin McLeavy, Bruce Spence and Jenni Baird.
The Bounce Back (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and brief drug use) Romance drama about a relationship expert (Shemar Moore) who falls head-over-heels for a fellow love guru (Nadine Velazquez) while on a publicity tour for his new book. Cast includes Kali Hawk, Michael Beach and Vanessa Bell Calloway.
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A Strange Course Of Events (Unrated) Prodigal Son drama about a melancholy, middle-aged dreamer (Ori Pfeffer) who returns home to Haifa to reconcile with the estranged father (Moni Moshonov) he blamed for all his life failures. With Michaela Eshet, Bethany Gorenberg and Maya Dagan. (In Hebrew with subtitles)
Tricked (Unrated) Tale of passion and betrayal revolving around a real estate tycoon (Peter Blok) whose 50th birthday party thrown by his wife (Ricky Koole) is ruined by his backstabbing business partners (Jochum ten Haaf and Pieter Tddens) and news that one of his mistresses (Sallie Harmsen and Gaite Jansen) is pregnant. Supporting cast includes Robert de Hoog, Carolien Spoor and Ronald van Elderen. (In Dutch and English with subtitles)
Who’s Driving Doug (Unrated) RJ Mitte plays the title character in this unlikely-buddies drama as a nerdy college student who embarks on a very eventful road trip with a slacker (Ray William Johnson) and a cute classmate (Paloma Kwiatkowski) he has a crush on. With Daphne Zuniga, Shanti Lowry and Alix Elizabeth Gitter.