"Race" vs. "Eddie The Eagle"
This review contains spoilers.
This year, the world’s gonna have an Olympics. It’s not until summer, of course, but if you want to get into the Olympic spirit early, there are two completely separate movies about inspirational Olympians available at your local theater.
“Race” is the story of Jesse Owens, the iconic African-American runner in the 1936 Olympics. The movie addresses complicated politics of having Black and Jewish athletes in Nazi Germany. “Eddie The Eagle” is the story of Eddie Edwards, the adorkable British ski-jumper in the 1988 Olympics, and his quest to be taken seriously as an athlete.
The question is: which one is better?
“Race” isn’t doing as well as “Eddie The Eagle” critically, which is a mystery to me, because it’s really good. The performances from the main cast are amazing - I’ve never seen Stephan James (who plays Owens) in anything, but I sincerely hope he’s cast in everything ever, because he is fantastic. Jason Sudeikis as Owens’s coach, Larry Snyder, was also really good - somebody needs to start casting him in more dramatic roles, because he can do serious just as well as he can do funny. The story itself is engaging - it’s not just about Owens and his struggle to get into the Olympics, but also about his home life, training, teammates, and his life after the Olympics. And then there’s the bit with the USA pulling its Jewish runners from a race, putting in Owens at the last second, because they were literally were trying to appease Nazi Germany. It’s always nice when an American film touches on the not-so-nice parts of our history, and “Race” does just that.
“Eddie The Eagle” is completely different from “Race” in time period, tone, and cast, but that’s not a bad thing. If they’d made a dramatic sob-story about Eddie Edwards, it wouldn’t have fit the real life narrative at all. Yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous - I’m sure in real life, Edwards had more than one coach, and I’m also sure that said coach never had a crazy awesome CGI ski jumping sequence - but it’s also really funny and just a fun experience overall. Taron Egerton, who plays Eddie, is incredibly charming as usual. This time around, he’s not a street kid-turned-spy, but a giant dork who just wants to be an Olympian, and it’s adorable. And Hugh Jackman is basically playing Wolverine (if Wolverine was a ski jumping coach), but seeing as Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is one of the best comic book movie castings of all time, I’ll let it slide.
Though both films are great, and though you should definitely see both if you get the chance, “Eddie The Eagle” is probably just a little bit better. It’s got a hero that’s easier to root for, for one thing - while Jesse Owens is a really good runner from the start who just needs to refine his technique, Eddie Edwards knows absolutely nothing about ski jumping, and watching him fail over and over again makes his successes that much more sweet. Plus, it’s got director Matthew Vaughn’s signature comedy all over it, in contrast to “Race”, which is pretty much all serious all the time. So if you can only see one of these movies, see “Eddie The Eagle” for laughs and heartwarming. If you have the chance to see both, though, see both.