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EAGLE VS SHARK (director/writer: Taika Waititi; cinematographer: Adam Clark; editor: Jono Woodford-Robinson; music: The Phoenix Foundation; cast: Loren Horsley (Lily), Jemaine Clement (Jarrod Lough ), Craig Hall (Doug), Rachel House (Nancy), Brian Sergent (Jonah), Joel Tobeck (Damon), Chelsie Preston-Crayford (Jenny), David Fane (Eric Elisi), Taika Waititi (Gordon); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ainsley Gardiner/Cliff Curtis; Miramax; 2007)
“A paean film to lonely misfits that follows along the same tracks as “Napoleon Dynamite,” and relies entirely on being a charmer.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A paean film to lonely misfits that follows along the same tracks as “Napoleon Dynamite,” and relies entirely on being a charmer. For me, the charm never kicked in and I found it an annoying watch. New Zealand writer-director Taika Waititi makes his feature debut in this grating sitcom romantic comedy.

Lean and plain-looking Lily (Loren Horsley) works behind the counter at Wellington’s Meaty Boy burger franchise and her only pleasure is if she gets to serve the nerdy Jarrod Lough (Jemaine Clement), someone she has a crush on. The one time he hits her counter, he invites the other counter girl Jenny, a pretty blonde, to an animal costume party he’s giving, where each guest is to dress as their favorite animal. Jenny rejects the offer as an insult, but Lily crashes the party and is escorted by her kindly cartoonist brother Damon (Joel Tobeck). Lily comes as a shark, while Jarrod is an eagle, and the two square off in a violent video game called “Fight Man” to see who is the champion. Lily’s folks are deceased, and her loving brother cares for the teen; while Jarrod suffers because his mom died after being kicked in the head by a cow and his heroic family favorite protector brother Gordon (Taika Waititi) committed suicide. Even though Jarrod is an obnoxious, macho-bent and arrogant lad with a depressive personality, the lonely Lily still loves him and agrees to go with the videogame store clerk on his “revenge of the nerd’ mission back to his hometown to take care of Eric Elisi (David Fane), the Samoan bully who used to jump Jarrod with his other ruffian friends and made his schooldays miserable. Damon gives the nasty Jarrod and his selfless sis a ride to the Lough family home, and while there Lily finally figures out her dreamboat is a boat load of trouble (which any person who wasn’t a moron could have figured this out within a few minutes of the film).

The film is filled with numerous socially awkward moments, from the mechanical lovemaking between the misfits to their awkward passive-aggressive conversations to Jarrod’s oddball family of his dad who can walk but remains in a wheelchair and a nasty sister Nancy and her husband both dressed in track suits from designers who went out of business, and a mysterious 9-year-old girl. All the laughs come from looking down on the inept characters. It’s lowbrow deadpan humor that lacks wit and originality and was never funny; in its vain attempt to be different it nevertheless winds up being derivative. The film’s dark edge, that touches on parental disappointment and suicide, seems misplaced when it was sight gag comedy this film was shooting for.

REVIEWED ON 12/21/2007 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”