In 2003, Kiwi director Taika Waititi (sometimes credited as Taika Cohen) made ‘Two Cars, One Night’, a charming and spiky short about two pubescent kids waiting in a pub car park. The boy was cocky and guileless but had a certain appeal; the girl was sceptical but indulgent. Waititi’s debut feature offers pretty much the same dynamic with characters a decade or two older, but the spikiness has been smoothed into quirkiness. The result, though not unenjoyable, feels distinctly derivative.
Mousy, moochy Lily (Loren Horsley) works at the Meaty Boy burger joint and has a crush on Jarrod (Jemaine Clement), the alpha dork from the Screenblasters electronics store in the same mall. He habitually blanks her until she sneaks into his animal costume/video game tournament party and demonstrates her prowess at the console. (He’s the eagle, she’s the shark.) A socially clumsy romance begins but Jarrod is also nursing a vendetta against an old classmate…
Overendowed with quasi-retarded losers, off-kilter handicrafts (World Trade Center candles, sketches of big cats), whimsical stop-motion animation and an essentially formulaic love story, This wears its influences heavily: ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ looms especially large, with hefty dashes of Michel Gondry and Wes Anderson too; it comes as no surprise that it was developed through the Sundance Lab. That said, ‘Eagle Vs Shark’ pleases even if it doesn’t surprise: the dialogue and performances are likable, the photography accomplished and the soundtrack pleasant. You just can’t help feeling the set was plastered with signs reading ‘Think quirky!’