Eagle vs Shark is a dork-chic romance à la Napoleon Dynamite about two Kiwi oddballs. But it's gentler and more lyrical, with angular cinematography interwoven with surreal stop-motion sequences about the lives of discarded apple cores who find love together.
Lily (Loren Horsley) is a fast-food cashier smitten with Jarrod (Jemaine Clement), a grandiose gaming geek bent on revenge against a bully from high school - so smitten that she meekly joins him for a week back home with his family. Jarrod trains in the backyard, oblivious to Lily, and the next bus doesn't leave until Sunday. A shortage of beds requires them to camp in the yard, and Lily gradually awakens to her self-worth while Jarrod says things like, "Sometimes I wish I did have knives that came out of my fists."
Eagle vs Shark is a little wisp of a movie, hung on Horsley's performance as the wallflower finally starting to bloom. Writer-director Taika Waititi gracefully balances the film's farcical elements with the geek girl's dramatic arc. Horsley's rich, multidimensional performance gives the movie its emotional heft; she's a noticeably physical actor even when Lily is doing little more than slouching around in Jarrod's shadow. Eagle vs Shark has plenty of wacky jokes, but underneath the quirk there's a real heart.