"Eagle vs. Shark" finds New Zealand comedian/musician Jemaine Clement playing pretty much the same sullen doofus that Jon Heder perfected in "Napoleon Dynamite." In fact, "Eagle vs. Shark" tries a little too hard to duplicate the look and feel of that surprise 2004 hit.
But when it finally stops trying to be something else, the film improves considerably. Unfortunately, by then it's almost too late. Audience members may quickly tire of the over-familiarity (at least initially). Also, at least one character is fairly unlikable.
The latter character, however, is not Lily (Loren Horsley), a fast-food restaurant employee who's become smitten with Jarrod (Clement), who is one of her customers. She is hoping to make a big impression when she attends his animal-themed costume party.
And Lily's shark costume does impress, as do her video game-playing skills. So much so that Jarrod decides to make Lily his girlfriend and invites her to go home with him and meet his family. However, she's horrified to see the contempt Jarrod shows for his family. And she's not too thrilled about the real reason he's returned home to exact revenge on a high school bully (David Fane).
Screenwriter/director Taika Waititi did impress with his 2003 Oscar-nominated short "Two Cars, One Night." But this tricky material eludes his best efforts, even if a handful of stop-motion-animated moments do have some charm. (Their significance doesn't become clear until the film's conclusion.)
As for Clement, he can be appealing as he's shown on HBO's "Flight of the Conchords." But his character here is such a jerk that we don't want him to find love with Lily. As played by relative newcomer Horsley, Lily is a sweet-natured outcast who clearly deserves better.
"Eagle vs. Shark" is rated R for strong sexual language (profanity, slang and other suggestive terms), video-game violence (as well as a brief scuffle), a brief sex scene (as well as some Internet porn), other crude humor and references, and brief glimpses of nude images. Running time: 87 minutes.