Eagle vs Shark

Miramax Films

Review in a Hurry:  No animals were harmed in the making of this film, but a human heart does get broken. In a New Zealand town, mousy Loren Horsley falls for geeky Jemaine Clement, and much quirkiness follows. A somewhat charming—albeit slight—indie, this one has Sundance (who helped develop the script) written all over it.

The Bigger Picture:  Despite the title, this isn't some interspecies smackdown worthy of Animal Planet (though that would be cool, huh?). Instead, it's an unconventional romance between shy romantic Horsley and overgrown adolescent Clement, whose petulant, passive-aggressive character invites inevitable comparisons to Napoleon Dynamite.

A cashier at a cheesy burger joint, Horsley crushes on Clement, a bespectacled dweeb who clerks at a nearby videogames store. She crashes his dress-as-your-favorite-animal party (who wouldn't wanna attend that?) and—in a shark costume—devours the competition in the videogame tournament. That's like Viagra for any nerd, so she and eagle-appareled Clement have a quick romp in the sack (emphasis on quick) and then start dating.

The kooky Kiwi couple travel to Clement's hometown, where he plans revenge on a bully who had tormented him in high school. Consumed with his payback mission, he dumps Horsley to focus on "training" for the big duel. She's then stuck for days with his dysfunctional family—awkward!—but proves she's stronger at handling rejection than he is at accepting disappointment. So, will these two odd animals survive the jungle of love? Duh…

No, EvS doesn't have gobs of dramatic momentum, and yes, it sometimes borders on strained kookiness, but the leads have an appealing chemistry and provide plenty of chuckles, as do the wacko family members. And unlike Napoleon Dynamite, this gentler, more art-house flick doesn't totally mock its emotionally stunted characters but treats them with greater sympathy and understanding. As Napoleon himself would say, "Sweet!"

The 180—a Second Opinion:  Cavorting claymation fruit? Yeah, you read that right. The film really could have done without sequences of stop-motion-animated apples and ants, which all got a little too precious. And annoying.

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