I was sure I was going to like this movie. How can you go wrong with a quirky tale of outcasts finding love in each other? It seems to be the perfect subject for a cult-style film. However, the creative team behind Eagle Vs Shark found a way to sink the premise and offer up a film that is funny in spurts, boring in spurts, and ultimately forgettable.
During the director’s commentary, Taika Waititi pretty much sums it: “Everything in this movie is a shitty version of a real thing.” I don’t think he was referring to the movie itself, but it still fits, more or less. Well, perhaps that is overstating the matter. There are nice moments and one good character. Instead of being classic outcast cinema, Eagle Vs Shark is a mediocre oddity on the landscape of geekdom.
The obvious comparison for Eagle Vs Shark is Napoleon Dynamite. There is a distinctive kinship between the two films. They both feature social misfits as the lead characters, they both have weird and dysfunctional families, and they both find love/friends in the strangest places. Despite the clear similarities, and the fact that they both exist in the same universe, there are differences which make them completely separate films and unfortunately sink the one at hand.
I guess I should start with what is good about the film. The biggest positive you can take from the movie is Loren Horseley who plays Lily (aka the shark of the title). She is bright, sunny, and hopelessly romantic even in spite of all the facts pointing her in the other direction. Horseley brings a simple sweetness to the role. In most of her scenes, she brings a brightness to the screen that is quite endearing. As for the rest of the good about the film, they are generally exchanges involving Lily.
The rest of the film is trying very hard to be sweet and endearing as a whole, not just the characters. A big problem is that the characters are rather dumb. It is more than just naiveté at work here; it is a low IQ. Many of these characters are actively unlikable, which plays directly against what I believe the goals are. The unlikability is a tough nut to get over and makes it that much harder to care about their plight. It did not matter to me if they actually made any lasting connection or if they learned anything about themselves. I just did not care.
We are first introduced to Lily (Horseley), a misfit clerk at a fast-food joint who nurtures an infatuation with Jarrod (Jemaine Clemont), a clerk at a local electronics store. Each day she waits anxiously to take his lunch order, going so far as to offer up free fries (which are accepted). The two later meet up in the animal costumes of the title, play video games, kiss, and have sex. It is all rather cold and perfunctory.
Before long, the two travel back to Jarrod’s hometown where an old high school bully is returning home. Jarrod’s express reason for making the trip is to have his revenge on said bully. During the trip and during the buildup to the big fight, I found myself not caring what happened.
Audio/Video. It looks good. You cannot accuse Miramax of skimping on the transfer. The colors are bright and vibrant and the audio is bright and clear (even if I did have trouble with the occasional word through the accent).
- Commentary. The track features writer/director Taika Waititi as well as Loren Horseley via phone, and a couple of the other actors dropping by the studio.
- Deleted Scenes. These can be viewed with commentary from the director. Nothing terribly special here. (~6 minutes)
- Outtakes. Standard collection of flubbed lines and such (~3 minutes)
- Music Video: The Phoenix Foundation’s “Going Fishing.”
Bottomline. It’s too bad. The idea would seem to contain so much fun material that it is a shame to see it reduced to this. Again, it has its moments, but they are few and far between. If not for Loren Horseley, this would be much lower on the watchability scale.