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Cinema in Focus: ‘Eddie the Eagle’

3 Stars — Uplifting

What does it take to become a superstar in the athletic world? Based mostly on a true story, Eddie the Eagle tells how Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton) overcame the odds of being physically handicapped as a child, ridiculed by his peers and demeaned by his father to persevere and set a British world record in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Through it all, Eddie gained worldwide attention for his “can-do” behavior and positive attitude.

Most of us have never had to endure the taunts of other children on the playground or in school as a result of crippling deformities in our legs. For Eddie, his best defense was the example of positive strength imparted to him by his mother.

Regardless of the comments of everyone else, including his father, who feared that his son’s dreams would make him subject to cruelty in the world, Eddie cherished his mother’s attitude and believed that he was a person of great worth.

 

All things are possible to those who believe and Eddie believed that someday he would be a great athlete.

Eddie’s story is inspiring, but it also shows the pain that comes through trial after trial in his personal life. To his credit, no setback seems to diminish Eddie’s desire to give it his all.

When he moves from his native England to Germany to learn to ski at the Olympic level, he is confronted with the reality that the other skiers who are there — and in particular, the Finnish national champion — began their training and quest before they were 5 years old. Eddie was a grown man with bad legs.

Eddie’s ace card was that England had not had an Olympic ski jumper since 1926, and breaking the old record was within the realm of possibilities.

Eddie’s roadblock was that the British Olympic Committee didn’t want someone on the team who would embarrass them, so they raised the qualifying requirements well beyond what Eddie could accomplish.

Besides his own self-confidence, Eddie was without ego constraints and had no problem asking for help from unlikely sources. Time after time he sought the help of a disgraced former champion named Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), who now was highly addicted to alcohol.

After Eddie nearly killed himself numerous times, Peary took pity on him and began to coach him, solely to keep him from dying on the slopes.

We won’t give away the story of Eddie’s and Bronson’s friendship and how they helped transform each other’s lives, but it is a well-known fact that Eddie became a global sensation at the 1988 Winter Olympics due more to his attitude than his skill.

He did beat the high standard set by the British Olympic Committee, although the committee raised it again after the Olympics, thus knocking Eddie out of the 1994 and 1998 games due to what became known as the British “Eddie the Eagle Rule.”

While there is little in this story to give us insight into the spiritual or family depth of influence in the lives of Eddie or his mother, it becomes obvious that the values of love, joy, patience and hope are deeply embedded in his life.

Most often we take for granted that the old adage of “no pain, no gain” is a natural part of physical training, but we quickly run from the fact that the same adage applies to our spiritual and emotional well-being.

In our own lives we may not seek to be Olympians, but the lessons we can learn from Eddie are world class.

Discussion

» It is clear that his own government did not want Eddie to jump, but when he did he brought honor to himself and to England. Why do you think they then blocked him from participating in the subsequent Olympic Games?

» Overcoming adversity is the path most of us must travel. What adversities do you experience and how are you facing them?

» The will of the athlete needs the wisdom of a coach. How have people helped mentor you to the success you have experienced in life?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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