Napoleon Dynamite looks like Cary Grant next to the hero of this Kiwi quirkathon: a hulking, sullen creep named Jarrod (Jemaine Clement, co-star of HBO's new Flight of the Conchords) whose goony sulking, petulant selfishness, and dweeby video-game obsession somehow work like Spanish fly on mousy burger-flipper Lily (Loren Horsley). If the intent were to have Lily's unconditional love redeem Jarrod, who plots half-assed revenge on the bully who thumped him a decade ago in high school, no such luck -- her regard for the insufferable prick comes off more as sodden masochism, or maybe brain damage. You can't see the forest for the twee in writer-director Taika Waititi's thicket of cutesy conceits, from the stunted supporting characters to the precious animated interludes. But Jarrod's strident ugliness definitely serves as a critique of geek-chic narcissism. Maybe Judd Apatow's comedies also flatter the maturity-impaired by making their 10th-grade hang-ups lovable, but Apatow doesn't leave you thinking less of the women who abide them -- or wanting to gnaw the cup holder off your armrest in impatience.
Taika CohenLoren Horsley, Jermaine Clement, Craig Hall, Jackie van Beek, Rachel House, Brian SergentTaika CohenCliff Curtis, Ainsley GardinerMiramax Films