Written by Caballero Oscuro
Eagle vs. Shark has often been referred to as a New Zealand version of Napoleon Dynamite, and it’s a fair comparison in principle. Both films feature nerd love between oddballs so far out on the fringe of society that they’re barely recognizable as human, with most of the laughs coming from witnessing the unbelievable situations they find to be completely normal. To wit: Eagle vs. Shark really gets started when the mousy, newly fired fast-food clerk Lily crashes a costume party hosted by not-so-lovable loser Jarrod, an infantile gathering whose biggest draw is a primitive video-game fighting challenge. To see “grown-ups” in cheesy homemade animal costumes determinedly standing in line to take their turns in video game battle is to witness a dork subculture our forefathers certainly never dreamed of in their worst nightmares.
Lily (Loren Horsely) seems like a nice enough girl, but she’s a social misfit who struggles to relate to others, finding security only in her relationship with her brother and her budding interest in her restaurant’s frequent customer, Jarrod. She doesn’t seem to have any real interests or hobbies of her own; she’s just searching for a connection with a kindred spirit. This leaves her character a bit bland, but also leaves plenty of room for Jarrod to color outside the lines. The film is mostly told from Lily’s point of view, but once she finds herself with Jarrod (“falls in love” seems too much of a stretch), she quickly learns that even needy losers can be complete jerks as boyfriends.
Jarrod (Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords) is a man-child, plain and simple. He’s emotionally and developmentally stunted, existing in some ongoing adolescent state that froze around the time of his older brother’s death and his frequent humiliation by a high school bully. His father also shut down after his brother’s death, moping around in an unneeded wheelchair and reliving his dead son’s past glories rather than celebrating or even recognizing the daily struggles of his remaining heir. Jarrod knows he’s a disappointment to his dad, and latches on to the brilliant idea that he may win some respect and begin to move his life forward if he confronts his demons. Unfortunately, Jarrod identifies his sole demon as his old high-school nemesis, setting him on a path of rigorous and ridiculous physical training to challenge and defeat the bully.