Eagle vs Shark (Director: Taika Waititi, New Zealand, 2007): I’d had my eye on this film since it played at Sundance and when I got the chance to see it at SXSW in the storied Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in downtown Austin, I didn’t hesitate.
I’d heard the film compared to Napoleon Dynamite, but without the condescension (and some would say, cruelty). For the most part, this is true. But Eagle vs Shark also comes across as unique in its own right, mainly due to the winning performance of Loren Horsley as Lily, who seems as steadfast and good-hearted as a heroine from a medieval fable. The film also makes sparing but effective use of stop-motion animation to add just the right amount of whimsy. The remote setting of rural New Zealand and the rarely-heard accents add to the quirky feel but don’t feel contrived. Instead, it’s comforting to know that there are geeks in every corner of the earth.
I left the theatre smiling and realized that I’d been doing it for practically the entire running time of the film. This is a gentle, tender-hearted romantic comedy that still packs some big laughs.
UPDATE: Just got the word from Alliance Atlantis that the film will open in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on June 29 (the US limited release date is June 15) and it will go wide on July 13th.