Eagle vs Shark
January 23, 2008
Eagle vs Shark (2007) is reminiscent of quirky films like Harold and Maude (1971) and blends together the sensibilities of Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) with oddball outsiders that lead colourful lives. Lily (Horsley) works at a fast food chain called Meaty Boy and secretly pines for one of its patrons, Jarrod (Clement). When he invites one of her co-workers to an animal party, (where you are supposed to dress up as your favourite animal), she decides to go in her place, dressed up as shark. Jarrod ends up going as an eagle.
Lily participates in a contest playing a video game that bares more than a passing resemblance to Mortal Combat and she makes it to the final round against Jarrod. A relationship (or sorts) develops between them and she and her brother, Damien (Tobeck), accompany Jarrod to his hometown so that he can confront a childhood bully.
Loren Horsley, at times, seems like New Zealand’s answer to Miranda July as she plays a mousy, vulnerable woman who just wants to find someone who will love her. Jemaine Clement, of Flight of the Conchords fame, evokes the quirky charm and dogged persistence of Napoleon Dynamite. He has the same geeky bravado. Their characters are perfect for each other as they are both social outcasts and in Jarrod’s case, haunted by deep-rooted familial traumas that inform his character. They are emotionally damaged people who ultimately find solace in each other.
Eagle vs Shark doesn’t follow the traditional narrative beats and instead follows its own unique rhythm. Director Taika Waititi gives his film all kinds of personal touches that separate it from other motion pictures. It helps that the film is set in a specific locale with actors who don’t try to mask their accents and this adds to the motion picture’s exotic appeal. Eagle vs Shark has a hand-made feel and employs old school stop-motion animation in a way that evokes the work of Michel Gondry. It is one of the many joys of watching a film so obviously made outside of the studio system with no perfect looking movie stars.
There is a collection of deleted scenes with an optional commentary by writer/director Taika Waititi. A lot of this footage showcases more of Jarrod’s relationship with his family. There is also more of Jarrod getting ready for his showdown with a bully. We also see more of Lily interacting with Jarrod’s family.
Also included is an “Outtakes” reel featuring the cast blowing their lines as they crack each other up.
The music video for “Going Fishing” by the Phoenix Foundation is a catchy indie song featuring lots of clips from the film.
Finally, there is an audio commentary by Waititi. Early on he gets Loren Horsley on the phone and they talk about an alternate opening credits animation that they ultimately rejected. They also point out all of their friends that populate the backgrounds of various scenes. Waititi recounts several filming anecdotes, delivering a very personable commentary for a very personal film.