"Napoleon Dynamite"'s success has apparently resulted in studios seeing the potential of the nerd audience, especially the all-important 18-34 dork and four-eyes segment of the population. "Eagle Vs. Shark", from New Zealand director Taika Waititi. The picture focuses on a pair of social misfits - fast food worker Lily (Loren Horsley) and Jarrod (Jermaine Clement). Lily is painfully socially awkward and looked down upon by her co-workers.
She's been watching Jarrod and has developed something of a crush - made even deeper during a bizarre animal costume party that Jarrod throws. When the two fight in a video game tournament at the party, she isn't concerned with the on-screen action as much as Jarrod, standing next to her and completely unaware of Lily's obvious feelings. While the two fall into bed together, Jarrod doesn't seem to get the whole idea and treats Lily like something of a pal who happens to be good at video games.
Lily tags along to Jarrod's hometown to meet the family, who turn out to be less awkward, but still a fairly grim bunch of folks. While Jarrod eventually breaks Lily's heart, she still manages to stick around after bonding - at least as much as one possibly could, I guess - with his family.
The reason I thought "Napoleon Dynamite" worked as well as it did was because, while the main character was a mess, at least he didn't care what anyone thought and was more confident than he probably had any right to be. Some lines and situations were also bizarrely and cartoonishly funny. "Eagle Vs. Shark", on the other hand, has an assortment of characters that make Napoleon look exceptionally normal and stable in comparison.
The movie doesn't get us to root for them - although Lily gets some sympathy because we have no idea what she sees in Jarrod - and largely seems to hold these characters up for the audience to ridicule them. Even what sympathy we have towards Lily isn't enough to carry the film over its concerns, as the 88 minute running time starts to see fairly long, especially in the middle. There's a few light laughs here, but otherwise watching these situations play out with these characters mostly seems painfully awkward. The performances aren't bad in that they quite accurately portray people who are incredibly awkward outcasts, but it's the writing that doesn't get us behind them. Clement plays Jarrod like a jerk, but I have to suppose the character was written that way.
Overall, while not a total loss, "Eagle Vs. Shark" just didn't work for me. I didn't like the characters, the story wasn't interesting and although a performance or two works and the movie has a couple of moments where it clicks, the picture still takes a few too many mis-steps. There's nothing wrong with a movie about socially awkward characters, but there's something not quite right about a movie with characters we spend most of 90 minutes cringing at.
VIDEO: "Eagle Vs. Shark" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality was just fine, with sharpness and detail that remained pleasing throughout most of the film, save for a few slightly softer scenes. Some slight edge enhancement was seen in a couple of scenes, but the picture was otherwise free of any other concerns. Colors remained natural and crisp, appearing accurate and not smeary or otherwise problematic.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was purely dialogue-driven, with little in the way of surround use. The low-key presentation was up to expectations for an indie comedy, and audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: Commentary by Taika Waititi and guests, outtakes, deleted scenes w/commentary and music video.
Final Thoughts: "Eagle Vs. Shark" tries to pull together an engaging romantic comedy, but these characters are not very compelling, and the movie often seems like a tough sit. The DVD presentation offers very good video quality and fine audio, as well as a respectable set of extras.
The Film C-