In this New Zealand rom com, loners of the sky and sea make an unlikely love match

Eagle vs. Shark

on June 15, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
“I used to be a bit of a nerd.”

That would be the understatement of the century—and that's saying a lot, given there are 93 years to go.

Jarrod (Jemaine Clement, one-half of the New Zealand comedy duo Humourbeast with writer/director Taika Waititi) is a Napoleon Dynamite-esque video game clerk whose hobbies include candle-making—for example, in the shape of a hand—and martial-arts training to exact his revenge on a decades-old bully. Although he doesn't know it yet, his soul mate is Lily (Loren Horsley, who created the character)—and not just because they have twin moles on their upper lips. She works at fast-food joint Meaty Boy and, since the death of her parents—“My mom died because she really missed him,” she says—lives with her sweet-natured cartoonist brother Damon (Joel Tobeck). The highlight of her day is when Jarrod comes into the restaurant for lunch.

Picking an invitation meant for a prettier girl out of the trash, Lily shows up at Jarrod's “dress as your favorite animal” party in a shark costume and lets him win the Fight Man video game tournament. He's dressed as an eagle. A love affair is born.

All does not go smoothly for these two misfits, however. Jarrod invites Lily to visit his hometown, where he'll continue to prepare to mete out justice—“Justin is waiting for you,” the recipient of his crank call mistakingly records. There, under the same roof as his entrepreneurial sister and brother-in-law, with cases of “high-fashion” sweat suits to unload; mercurial wheelchair-bound father; and the ghost of his popular dead brother, Jarrod promptly dumps Lily. “Dammit! I'm too complex!” he says by way of explanation. With no ride home, she makes the best of a bad situation.

In his feature-film debut, Waititi, whose live-action short Two Cars, One Night was nominated for an Oscar in 2003, has crafted a lovely romantic comedy in which the alchemy of Horsely's plucky optimism and Clement's deadpan delivery; a richly rendered supporting cast; deviously delightful dialogue; a plucky score by Phoenix Foundation; and surreal animated interludes create a poignant humor that will have you in stitches, even when you think perhaps you shouldn't be.

Particularly enchanting is a stop-motion sequence in Lily and Jarrod's red and blue sleeping bags snake across a field of green.

“I'm a loser,” he says.

“Doesn't matter,” she replies.
Distributor: Miramax
Cast: Loren Horsley, Jemaine Clement, Craig Hall, Rachel House, Brian Sergent and Joel Tobeck
Director/Screenwriter: Taika Waititi
Producers: Ainsley Gardiner and Cliff Curtis
Genre: Romantic comedy
Rating: R for language, some sexuality and brief animated violence
Running time: 87 min.
Release date: June 15, 2007 NY/LA, 6/22 exp
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