Eddie The Eagle

Director: Dexter Fletcher (2016)

This slushy sports biopic of an amateur ski jumper chasing his Olympic dream fails to fly.

The sentimental tone is light but the humour lands as heavily as its hero, but with far less frequency and grace.

A gurning Taron Egerton captures the spirit of of Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards in all his gormless glory.

He’s a teetotal, socially awkward, bespectacled sporter of alarming knit wear. The possessor of a chin the late Jimmy Hill would be proud of.

After Eddie suffered a childhood illness, doctors told him he shouldn’t play sport.

So with an Alp sized chip on his shoulder, this otherwise very ordinary bloke is driven to become an Olympian to prove them wrong.

He’s not fussy about at which sport he fails at so plumbs for the ski-jump.

With no other British competitor in the field it gives him the best chance of qualifying for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

In a less than olympic effort from the IOC, also on the same bill were the Jamaican bobsled team who inspired the film Cool Runnings (1993).

It was watching that film which inspired producer Matthew Vaughn to tackle this project. Egerton also starred and more successfully in Vaughn’s sexist spy caper Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015).

The obstacles littering Eddie’s way are a lack of finance, ability and parental support.

Plus he must face down mockery from fellow competitors and institutional bullying from Tim McInnerny’s snooty British Olympocrat.

The story turns into an odd couple comedy when he teams up with a fictional coach called Bronson Peary.

Aussie charmer Hugh Jackman plays disgraced former ski star turned cynical alcoholic.

Eddie’s no chicken and lacks a fear of heights. Headless on the slopes, he’s too dim to be wary of the potential lethal nature of the sport.

Adding to this lack of heroism is the knowledge he can’t win, so there’s nothing at stake and no drama.

Actor turned director Dexter Fletcher made the feel good musical Sunshine On Leith (2014) but can’t make this material lift off.

He does a great job of conveying the awe inducing spectacle of the slopes but it’s downhill in all other aspects.

When even the presence of reliable old stager Jim Broadbent can’t raise a smile, your film really is in trouble.

Christopher Walken wanders in very late in the games as ski guru Warren Sharp and looks as comfortable in his surroundings as Eddie does on the slopes.

Dialogue stresses Eddie’s reservations about appearing in the media spotlight. This is at odds with the real life footage shown at the film’s end of Eddie taking a very public bow at the closing ceremony.

And Edwards hasn’t been slow to exploit the media invented nickname of ‘Eddie the Eagle’. His real name is Michael.

Which in presenting this under achieving and over eager self publicist as a plucky underdog, this film duly takes.

 

 

Hector

Director: Jake Gavin (2015)

A homeless pensioner begins a long road to self forgiveness and redemption in this touching British drama.

The always watchable Peter Mullan is once again excellent in the title role.

Hector has been gentleman of the road for fifteen years and though in poor health and history of mental illness, he lacks self pity and  retains a welcome Scots wit.

A chance meeting in Glasgow sets Hector off to Newcastle and London in search of his estranged family.

Britain is a bleak landscape of rain lashed service stations and shuttered shopfronts.

He is mugged and accused of theft but also receives small unexpected kindnesses. Each makes a mockery of the tatty commercialisation of Christmas littering the country.

In a test of faith loaded with potential for disaster, Hector frequently asks strangers to mind his suitcase.

This sense of trust in his fellow man makes us warm to him.

Though with his portly frame, white beard and orange hi vis coat, Hector’s the spirit of Christmas present no one wants a visit from.

When we discover his reason for his homelessness, this suitcase he drags around takes on a meaning worthy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (pub. 1843).

There’s strong support from Gina McKee and Ewan Stewart as his siblings who retain issues with each other while Stephen Tompkinson swears enjoyably as a cash conscious car dealer.

Without preaching the script gently reminds us of the need for compassion and charity, filling Hector with an abundance of festive spirit and warmth.

Merry Christmas.