Eddie the Eagle
Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes
I have a real fascination with the Olympics—my book club friends can definitely confirm this! While studying abroad in college, I visited the Winter Olympics in Albertville, France and somehow managed to score tickets to the men’s figure skating finals. At the event, we met the family of a speed skater named Eric Flaim and you could just tell these folks were bursting with pride to have an Olympian in the family—they even wore matching sweatshirts with the phrase “Eric Flaim—Fire on Ice” printed on them! That night, we saw US skater Paul Wylie (now a Charlotte resident!) win the silver medal and we screamed like crazy for him! All these American strangers were hugging and cheering and feeling extremely proud of our country as our flag was lifted during the medal ceremony. There really is something magical about the Olympics.
So I was eager to see the Olympic themed movie Eddie the Eagle, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the cast includes gorgeous Hugh Jackman! Based on a true story, Eddie is a young English boy with braces on his knees who dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete. This single-minded focus drives Eddie to experiment with all types of sports, often with disastrous results. Eventually, Eddie discovers a talent for skiing, and he puts his entire focus on downhill skiing. While his mother encourages him, his father wishes Eddie would stop dreaming and start learning the family trade of plastering. Although he becomes a good skier, Eddie does not make the Olympic team. He then realizes that England hasn’t had a single ski jumper compete in decades and decides that’s his ticket to getting onto the Olympic team. Of course the fact that he’s never jumped before doesn’t seem to bother him, so he heads off to Germany to train. There he meets surly drunk Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman) a former jumper who missed his shot at glory years ago. Together, this odd couple trains to get Eddie his shot at Olympic glory. Eddie is played by Taron Egerton (last seen looking much more handsome in Kingsman: The Secret Service) and while his odd facial tics annoyed me at first, Eddie really grew on me after a while. I didn’t need to warm up to Hugh Jackman of course—he was pretty fantastic the entire time! The story is really about hard work, perseverance, and loving what you do even if you don’t come in first place. If you are thinking of taking your kids, there is one scene that I would not want to sit through with my son—a scene where Jackman equates the moment of jump takeoff with…well let’s just say Meg Ryan’s deli scene in When Harry Met Sally has nothing on Hugh!
After seeing Eddie the Eagle, I started thinking about other Olympic themed movies and came up with a few other ideas should you also get caught up in Olympic fever—enjoy!
Ice Castles (1978)
Directed by: Donald Wrye
Run Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
I hadn’t seen this movie in decades, but when I turned this classic on I definitely remembered the gorgeous theme music written by Marvin Hamlisch. When I first saw Ice Castles, I though Robby Benson was just dreamy as love interest Nick. This time around, I was checking out the dad (Tom Skerritt) instead—that really makes me feel old! This great melodramatic weep-fest centers on young and innocent Lexie (Lynn-Holly Johnson) a gifted small town figure skater who leaves her comfortable life with her father, boyfriend and trainer behind to pursue her dreams of becoming an Olympic figure skater. Along the way, she is pursued by sponsors, pulled away from Nick by an older man, and overwhelmed by the demands of her training. At the height of her success, Lexie is blinded in a freak accident and she returns home with her dreams shattered. Her loved ones rally around her and spur her on to skate again—even without her sight. What sets this movie apart from other ice skating films is the fact that actress Lynn-Holly Johnson does all her own skating which really adds to this beautifully choreographed film. Of course, this was filmed in the late ‘70s, so the skating is less about triple axels and more about the artistry of the sport. While ice skating is a hit with my daughter, I won’t be showing this movie to her any time soon as there is a lot of bad language and some scenes of the characters arguing are just gut wrenching to watch. Ice Castles is a completely absorbing three hankie movie and I dare you to not sing along to the theme song by the end
The Cutting Edge (1992)
Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser
Run time: 1 hour 41 minutes
If the phrase “toe-pick” makes you smile, you’ve already seen this film. This is one of those movies that I hate to love. It’s cheesy, the skating scenes are horribly shot, and it’s totally predictable—but I still love it! Doug Dorsey’s (D.B. Sweeney) Olympic hockey dreams are shattered when he loses his peripheral vision after a big hit on the ice (hey Doug at least you aren’t completely blind like poor Lexie!). He is desperate to get back to the Olympics and agrees to try out pairs figure skating with high-strung snob Kate Moseley. Kate (Moira Kelly) has also failed in her quest for Olympic glory and the two begrudgingly agree to partner to win a gold medal. He’s a laid-back party boy and she’s a type-A perfectionist so what could possibly go wrong? The screenplay was written by Tony Gilroy of Bourne Identity fame and the film has spawned umpteen sequels so it must be doing something right. Sweeney and Kelly are terrific together, but neither actor seems to know how to skate so expect lots of close-ups and awful gimmicky angles during the skating sequences.
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Run time: 2 hours 15 minutes
I would never ever make it as a hockey player. Not just because I can’t skate and I like having teeth, but because these guys have to put up with an awful lot of pain and misery for their sport—especially if their coach is Herb Brooks! The true story of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team’s victory over Russia is told through the eyes of Coach Brooks as he creates his dream team of players. Miracle does a terrific job of setting the scene of the early ’80s when tensions with Russia were high and beating the Soviets was about much more than a hockey game. While I cringed at how Coach Brooks (Kurt Russell) treated his team, he saw great results as he whipped those boys into shape in less than a year to build a cohesive and unbeatable team. While I’m not a hockey expert by any means, the game scenes are beautifully shot and you get more anxious by the minute during the big battle against Russia. You will definitely be cheering U.S.A. along with the crowd by the end of this film!
There are so many other films about the Olympics that I don’t have room to mention! For winter sports you could enjoy the ridiculous skating comedy Blades of Glory or the Jamaican bobsled movie Cool Runnings. For summer sports like track and field you have plenty of options—Chariots of Fire, Prefontaine, or Unbroken. Or you could check out the true story of the 1972 massacre of athletes in Munich. With all of these options, you can definitely get your Olympic fix! I am exhausted after watching all these athletes push themselves to the limit so I think I’ll pour a nice glass of wine and curl up with a much less active movie tonight. Cheers!