June 16, 2007

Eagle vs Shark

Directed by Taiki Waititi Starring Jemaine Clement

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

Eagle vs Shark might be positioning itself as this summer’s sleeper hit. It’s one of those movies that seemingly none but the exceptionally media savvy have heard of, starring some up-and-comer who is virtually unknown outside New Zealand. The film is certainly getting a lavish marketing budget, as is evident from those outsized bus-stop posters plastered all over East Village.

Many critics are quick to point out similarities between this offbeat rom-com involving two social misfits and the sleeper hit of summer 2004, Napoleon Dynamite. In reality, Eagle vs Shark is more a ripoff of the under-the-radar hit of summer 2005, Me and You and Everyone We Know. Sure, Jarrod (Jemaine Clement of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords) is like a 30-something version of Napoleon Dynamite, but this story really belongs to the awkward and homely fast-food worker Lily (Loren Horsley). Like Miranda July’s character Christine in Me and You, Lily is a go-getter who is not above acting out of desperation. When her coworker tosses aside Jarrod’s invitation to a party, Lily seizes the opportunity and invites herself.

Napoleon Dynamite worked in spite of its free-for-all dig because it was at least compassionate toward its protagonist and his pal Pedro. But while Eagle vs Shark is sympathetic toward Lily, writer/director Taika Waititi paints Jarrod as mean-spirited and writes his demeanor off as the product of chronic sibling rivalry and bullying. It doesn’t work though, no matter how many quasi-whimsical stop-motion sequences Waititi can squeeze into the film.

© Copyright 2007 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.