Eagle vs Shark
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (3rd February 2008).
The Film

"Napoleon Dynamite" (2004) may or may not be responsible for the recent rash of movies about nerdy characters whom are alternately endearing and annoying. Whatever the case, this indie feature from New Zealand owes a debt to Dynamite, but it also takes the hopeless loser motif into an entirely different direction.
Although told from the point of view of a wallflower named Lily (Loren Horsley), "Eagle vs. Shark" is really the story of one Jarrod (Jemaine Clement). Jarrod is in his late twenties and lives in the present day, but mentally and emotionally he is a fourteen year old inhabiting the year 1983. He plays video games obsessively (and works in a video game shop), makes candles, wears a "Members Only" jacket and a mullet hairdo, and thinks that he is going to be a Ninja. Lily doesn't know any of this, she just longs for him from afar, and stuck behind the counter at the fast food restaurant she works in. Lily is just as socially stunted as Jarrod is, but a list of her character traits would be just as short as Jarrod's is long. She's an empty vessel with no discernable personality, interests, or charm. Her efforts to learn to play the guitar come to nil. Neither of them are bad people, they are just losers. After landing the man of her dreams (Jarrod), Lily discovers that his goal in life is to vanquish his arch-enemy, a Samoan guy (David Fane) who was a bully back in high school. Jarrod has been nursing this grudge for more than a decade, and is finally ready to make his move against the person who 'ruined (his) life'.
As Jarrod trains for his mission, Lily silently follows him around, content and happy to simply be wanted by someone. When the confrontation with the Samoan occurs, there is a reasonably predictable plot twist, but it is how Jarrod reacts to this new information that is interesting and surprising. The resulting scene will either mortify you, or make you laugh and cheer in solidarity with militant revenge seeking nerds everywhere (those of you cheering might want to get some therapy, but I confess that I was tempted, even as I cringed at Jarrod's horrific and embarrassing audacity).
The first half of this movie is alternately hilarious, sweet, and clever. The laughs are played really subtly; those looking for Dynamite's more broad take on loserdom and the more obvious pop culture references might not get it.
Halfway through the running time, things run out of steam a little. The story gets a little bit darker, and some of the things that make the characters funny begin to wear thin. There are two dozen classic moments in the film, but they're all in the first half. Maybe there is a really great indie comedy hiding in "Eagle vs. Shark", but in order to bring it out, the second half could use some tweaks in the editing room. That said, this is the sort of film that stays with a person for a while. Perhaps there is a little bit of Lily, Jarrod, and their hopelessly nerdy families in all of us.


"Eagle vs. Shark" is presented in the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Running time is 1:22:42. The print is clean and sharp. Although there isn't much of an effort being made to dazzle anyone with the cinematography, the colors are bright where needed, but are rather muted overall.


Spoken language options are English or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1; the disc also offers English, Spanish, and French subtitles. The Kiwi accents that many of the actors utilize is combined with the fact that a lot of them (Lily in particular) mumble their way through the film (as is suitable for the character). The result is that dialogue tracks can be a bit tough to decipher. Switching the English subtitles on spoils the punch lines for the gags, so it's a tough call. There is a fair amount of New Zealand indie rock on the soundtrack, and some incidental music is by members of one of the bands, Phoenix Foundation. This all comes across fine, and fortunately it seldom steps on the dialogue.


Buena Vista has included an audio commentary, a series of deleted scenes, outtakes, a music video and a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

There is an audio commentary by writer/director Taiki Waititi. During the first part, co-writer/actress Loren Horsley calls in, and she chats on the phone with Waititi for a bit. Most of this conversation consists of Waititi telling Horsley what is happening on the screen, since she is on another continent. She has to leave to pick up her mother (seriously) so the director is alone for a bit, until he is joined in the studio by actor David Fane (Eric, the Samoan). Things are actually a bit livelier when the director is alone, and he dishes out the usual anecdotes about people and things that happened during the filming.

13 deleted scenes follow with optional audio commentary by writer/director Taiki Waititi and include:

- "Working Out" runs for 1 minute 13 seconds, Jarrod lifts a barbell at his party.
- "Bottle Throw" runs for 35 seconds, some jerks throw things at Jarrod and Lily.
- "Lilly Plays Guitar" runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds, Lily plays Jarrod's nephew's axe after looking at a scrap book.
- "Jarrod Visits Tracy" runs for 1 minute 37 seconds, they have a stilted conversation.
- "Lily in the Tent" runs for 1 minute 37 seconds, Lily cries after Jarrod dumps her, his uncle visits her.
- "Jarrod's Phone Call" runs for 1 minute 8 seconds, Jarrod's daughter makes fun of him while on the phone.
- "Hitchhiking" runs for 58 seconds, Lily attempts to leave Jarrod's home town.
- "Bike Date" runs for 32 seconds, Jarrod invites himself to a party.
- "Jarrod Throws Stars" runs for 1 minute 52 seconds, Jarrod practices with Ninja throwing stars and argues with Lily.
- "Lily the Morning After" runs for 55 seconds, Lily wakes up in the woods after a party.
- "The Fountain" runs for 54 seconds, The cast play a yard game.
- "Dream Sequence Previsualization" runs for 59 seconds, content as titled.
- "Bottle Throw Part 2" runs for 20 seconds, the jerks return and throw more stuff.

The next feature is outtakes that run for 2 minutes 47 seconds and is basically bloopers from the production.

Following that is a music video of the song "Going Fishing" by The Phoenix Foundation which runs for 5 minutes 19 seconds.

Wrapping things up is a collection of bonus trailers containing:

- "Becoming Jane" which runs for 2 minutes 25 seconds.
- "Golden Door" which runs for 1 minute 42 seconds.
- "No Country For Old Men" which runs for 2 minutes 37 seconds.
- "Disney Blu-ray" spot which runs for 2 minutes 22 seconds.
- "Gone Baby Gone" which runs for 2 minutes 39 seconds.
- "Wall-E" which runs for 1 minute 36 seconds.


The Film: B- Video: B Audio: B Extras: B Overall: B


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