Eagle Vs. Shark (2007), or Are We Funny Or Quirky?

21 02 2009
So, do we attack each other now?

"So, do we attack each other now?"

Greetings, one and all! It’s Comedy Week! So turn on the laughing gas, get out the French Tickler, and get ready to guffaw yourself stupid! Today we take a look at an interesting sub-genre, the indie comedy. Now, when I say indie comedy, I don’t mean just any independently financed comedy. You know what I mean; I mean the head-to-toe completely “indie” look, with all the characters being ironically cool, with the dialog bursting at the seams with over-confident one-liners, and with the entire soundtrack performed by quirky acoustic guitar numbers or underdeveloped keyboard tones. These movies are part of a new wave of stupid-funny comedy, where the audience is really supposed to identify with these characters because we’re all a little quirky. It works sometimes, like in Nacho Libre, where everybody is just so damn weird and unique that it endears you to them. Sometimes it doesn’t work, though, and it doesn’t because of a fatal flaw in the formula. I know it well, because my favorite form of comedy, 90’s alt comedy, had the same fatal flaw. It is a problem of attitude. All my favorite comics from the 90’s were not only funny but cool as hell, and they would be so damn cool that whenever they tried to do something not cool, like a guest spot on a sitcom or a lame bit part on a movie, people wouldn’t buy it. It wasn’t genuine to their pure cool image. And a lot of my favorite comics to this day are still funny as hell, and they are also still doing stand-up because nobody will buy them in anything else. So, if alt comedy was too cool to do anything mainstream, then indie comedy is too cool to do anything funny. They make whole movies based off of Huey Lewis and The News’s song “It’s Hip To Be Square”! They hope that quirkiness and knowing the names of indie bands will carry a movie. And sometimes it makes for an interesting movie experience, but what about today’s subject, Eagle Vs. Shark? Well…

Lily is a lovely young woman who works at a fast food restaurant. She is shy and eccentric, but she is definitely a keeper. Unfortunately, that is not what her job thinks, because she has been let go by her boss, although she has been asked to work out the week. She is not so upset about losing the job as much as she is about not seeing her favorite customer Jarrod. Jarrod is a total prick and a horrible human being, an over-confident geek who somehow has a few friends. He works at a video game store across the street, and every day he comes in to buy a meal at the restaurant, but instead of going for pretty Lily, she chooses to wait in line to talk with the more conventional beauty, Jenny (what a jerk). One day, while Jenny is not there, Jarrod asks Lily to give Jenny an invitation to his “Dress As Your Favorite Animal” party for him (what a jerk). She does, but Jenny instantly throws it in the trash. Seeing this as an opportunity to get in close with him, she decides to invite herself to the party, dressing up as her favorite animal, a shark. Can Lily win this jerk’s heart? Will Jarrod open up to Lily, revealing his private pain and his personal plan for revenge against a man who wronged him? Will the audience be able to stand Jarrod for more than twenty minutes?

Oh, and did I mention that this movie was made in New Zealand? This is a forewarning, and if you can’t stand Kiwi colloquialisms stay away from this film!!

So, this is quite the quirk-fest, a regular eccentric-aganza! Everyone in this movie is a total loser who can barely function in the real world, and we’re supposed to feel some sort of relation to them because we’re all like that, or something to that effect. I get it. The problem is that sometimes things become too sincere. Sometimes, the movie becomes very depressing due to these characters’ extreme inadequacies. Lily is such a sweet girl, that even thinking about her being with Jarrod makes my skin itch with rage. And Jarrod…

Jarrod is played by one-half of Flight of The Conchords, Jemaine Clement (not Jermaine, Jemaine (?)). He is the real reason why this movie is funny at all. If not for him, I think this would honestly be shelved under drama and packaged as a two-fer at Target with any number of Gus Van Sant films. This guy is funny as hell. Everything this deep-voiced weirdo says is hilarious. I especially love when he calls up his old high-school rival on the phone (“You foolish sucka!”). He is a jerk, and not a likable one at that. There is nothing really redeemable about him, and I hate him as a character. But Jemaine Clement (no relation to Willem Defoe) is really good at what he does, and I feel more movies will only increase his ease with the medium and make him a funnier guy.

Lily, played by Loren Horsley, is a dream to watch. She is a sad, skinny, beautiful woman, and she deserves way more than pathetic loser Jarrod. I feel for her, I really do, but she is not really funny. She is more of a foil for her love interest’s wickedness, so I understand, but I had hoped she would receive more material. Instead, she is constantly set up to be used and abused, which is weird considering the director, Taika Waititi, just happens to be her gentleman caller. I don’t think it would go very well if I told my significant other, “Okay, baby, I’m gonna set up this scene where it turns out not only were you fired from your job, but everyone in the place also wanted you gone as well! Funny, right? I know! Now, go over there to your fake asshole boyfriend and start making out!”

Either way, I am at odds with this movie. Jarrod is hilarious, but he is WAY too much of a jerk, even for me. It can really kill the funny sometimes, and when there is only one character really making a concerted effort to be funny, that is a problem. All in all, if you like romantic comedies like Singles, where the female main character is thrown around like a rag doll, and Napolean Dynamite, where the “hero” is a colorful spaz, you will like this movie. There are some comedic gems here, but they are too few and far between for me. I give Eagle Vs. Shark 5 1/2 oddly-spelled first names out of 10!

Tomorrow, Comedy Week chugs along with Wet Hot American Summer!