Eagle vs. Shark



PARK CITY -- "Eagle vs. Shark," from Kiwi director Taika Waititi, is like the romantic version of "Napoleon Dynamite." Story of a misfit couple sort of getting together features goofy characters doing not very much in painfully oddball situations. Miramax picked up the film hoping a young audience will find this funny and original, but don't bank on it.

In this sub-genre of Gen Y comedies, quirky has somehow come to mean dumb. Perhaps teens, especially guys, enjoy seeing people on screen who are not as smart as they are. It's the real revenge of the nerds.

In "Eagle vs. Shark," Lily (Loren Horsley) works behind the counter at Meaty Boy, a cheesy hamburger joint in a Wellington, New Zealand, where she waits for her Mr. Right to come in. Unfortunately, Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) possesses, as Waititi freely admits, "all the worst traits of every male you've ever known." He's egotistical, self-absorbed, macho, obnoxious, immature and not that interesting. But for Lily, love is blind.

Their romance, such as it is, takes off when he invites her to a come-as-your-favorite-animal party. She dresses up as a sad shark and he's a preening eagle. They come together over a match of Fight Man, where Jarrod says she's the best female video game player he's ever seen. Obviously, it's a deep bond.

Pretty soon they're off to his hometown where he's on a mission to extract revenge from the guy who tormented him in high school. Jarrod goes into heavy training for the event and soon loses interest in Lily, who hangs around with his family anyway. It turns out his nemesis is now confined to a wheelchair but kicks Jarrod's butt anyway. Very funny. But despite being dumped, Lily is there for him, and together they learn something or other about each other and themselves.

Presumably, these characters are meant to be appealing in their ordinariness, but just seem inane. The Farrelly Brothers can get away with it because their writing is smart, even if their characters aren't. For Waititi, who developed the screenplay at the Sundance Lab, wisdom consists of lines like, "life is full of hard bits but in between there are lovely bits."

The film cultivates a hyper-real look, nicely shot by Adam Clark, and also features some animated flights of fancy with an apple and insects devouring it. That must mean it's a cruel world out there, redeemed only by love. A nice idea, if only it seemed remotely real.

Icon, Miramax Films, Whenua Films, in association with NZ Film Commission and Unison Films
Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Waititi
Producers: Ainsley Gardiner, Cliff Curtis
Executive producer: Emanuel Michael
Director of photography: Adam Clark
Production designer: Joe Bleakley
Music: The Phoenix Foundation
Costume designer: Amanda Neale
Editor: Jono Woodford-Robinson
Lily: Loren Horsley
Jarrod: Jemaine Clement
Doug: Craig Hall
Nancy: Rachel House
Jonah: Brian Sergent
Damon: Joel Tobeck
Running time -- 87 minutes
No MPAA rating