Eagle Vs. Shark will always be compared to Napoleon Dynamite, and it's both apt and unfair. The male lead Jarrod (Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords) is pretty much Napoleon's older, Australian cousin. He's precisely what Napoleon will become if he keeps along his path. The films also share a deadpan sensibility that loves showcasing the weird, bizarre, all around freaks and geeks of the world.
But the comparison is unfair because Eagle Vs. Shark has one thing Napoleon didn't: Loren Horsley. Loren plays Lily, a fast food worker who can best be described as the weird girl. Which means that she's weird and adorable and misunderstood by all the "pretty" people around her. And naturally, I have fallen in love with her. If Jarrod is Napoleon Dynamite's cousin, Lily is surely somewhere down the line a distant relative of Amelie and Miranda July in Me and You and Everyone We Know.
This is Eagle Vs. Shark, a strange little film from New Zealand and director Taika Waititi. It's a romantic comedy for the outcasts, like Mr. Dynamite or Punch Drunk Love. It also has a fine visual sense, and some lovely stop motion animated sequences, some dark humor, and some fine performances. In all honesty, freaks and geeks around should come and worship this movie. I wanted to, but there's one thing about the whole movie that turns me off, and while I can recommend the flick, I can't say it will be everybody's cup of tea.
Lily works at Meaty Boy, a fast food burger chain. She waits everyday for Jarrod to show up and order his lunch, as she has an enormous crush on the lad. Jarrod winds up inviting her to a party, where you come dressed as your favorite animal. Lily arrives dressed as a shark. Jarrod was going to be a shark, but an Eagle "is a little better". After impressing him with her video game skills, the two have one of the most awkward sex scene in recent memory, as it ends with him making a threatening phone call.
Jarrod later invites Lily on a journey to his hometown, where he plans on exacting revenge on the bully who beat him up in high school. (Utilizing fighting skills, bowstaff skills, nunchuck skills...) Here Lily meets Jarrod's family, which is sort of tragic if it weren't so damn entertaining at the same time. (Although, some people may find the family as forced weirdness). It helps explain a lot about Jarrod (who loves to claim that he's "too complex"), but it also leads me to a point of contention.
Read no further if you want to see this movie fresh. What I need to say involves the ending, which while you could easily guess what's going to happen given the genre, might still need to surprise a few people.
Have you stopped reading yet?
Okay. Here's my problem with the movie. The move you learn about Jarrod, and how he acts, the more annoying and obnoxious he is. (And watching Clement's performance, I finally understood why my friend Becca hates Napoleon Dynamite.) Jarrod is a jerk. A big jerk. Halfway through, he dumps Lily to focus more on his revenge, leaving Lily behind. He breaks her heart right there, and it's sad. And the rest of the movie gives us Lily kind of being more independent and successful on her own. Lily blossoms, if you'll pardon the pun. And Lily is awesome. Like I said, I totally fell in love with her. And because of this, I think that in the end, when Lily forgives Jarrod, and he starts to become a little less of a jerk, and they get back together, it's false. He doesn't deserve her. Lily is mad cool, and he's still an idiot, and she can do so much better than him. This ending is what made me not love the movie as much as I wanted to.
But my minor griping aside, it's still an entertaining and very bizarre movie. I went with it for a long time, and I thought it was gorgeously shot. The music is really good, too. I had a lot of fun, but I wish the characters could have made better choices for their lives instead of settling for what's right in front of them, even if it is more convenient.