Napoleon Dynamite Reviews
The phrase "Ugh" perfectly describes the attitude of Napoleon Dynamite, the stereotypical high school reject. He finds himself surrounded by idiots, the only sensible person in the small town of Preston, Idaho. He struggles to comprehend why people don't believe his stories about killing wolverines or why his nunchuck skills go completely unnoticed. In short, it's as if a "local wizard" placed a spell over his whole freakin' school so they just don't understand how awesome he is. Just like Napoleon's classmates, I think the world fails to grasp how amazing Napoleon is! Not only is the movie hilarious, it also tells a story of the underdog, one of the greatest and most real underdogs I've seen. Napoleon is shunned and rejected at school, but he still manages to pull off some amazing things. He tells us that no matter how weird or nerdy you may think you are, you can still make it in life and be happy.
The movie is essentially a large Youtube compilation of funny moments, all strung together in a somewhat coherent plot. You might wonder, "Doesn't this fly in the face of what a movie really is? How can this be seen as quality entertainment when compared to lengthy, well-fleshed out films?" Well, perhaps you should expand your idea of what a movie is! Can't movies not only be made to inspire awe and to engage, but also to enliven and energize through humor? Napoleon is one of the most hilarious and quotable movies I've ever seen, a movie that can get a whole room of people laughing with one reference! It is also a crippling, yet common mistake, to underestimate this movie as a tale of meaning. The movie puts us in the shoes of a high school reject and shows us how he can overcome his insecurities and weaknesses. While its tone is mostly jovial, Napoleon Dynamite actually tells a rich, constructive story.
A scene early in the movie gives us insight, providing us with these dialogues:
(some lines are excluded)
Napoleon: "Hey, can I use your guys's phone for a sec?"
Office Lady: "Is something wrong?"
Napoleon: "I don't feel very good."
Kip [Napoleon's older brother]: "Hi"
Napoleon: "Is Grandma there?"
Kip: "No, she's getting her hair done."
Napoleon: "Just tell her to come get me."
Napoleon: "Cause I don't feel good!"
Kip: "Well, have you talked to the school nurse?"
Napoleon: "No, she doesn't know anything. Will you just come get me?"
Napoleon: "Can you bring me my chapstick?"
Kip: "No, Napoleon."
Napoleon: "But my lips hurt real bad!"
Kip: "Just borrow some from the school nurse, I know she has like 5 sticks in her drawer."
Napoleon: "I'm not gonna use hers, you sicko!"
Kip: "See ya."
[Kip hangs up]
Napoleon: "Ugh! Idiot!"
To me, there is no better way to show the hilarity of Napoleon than by quoting. These conversations show the comedic relationship between Napoleon and his older brother, Kip. In addition to showing Napoleon's and Kip's laughable personalities, this dialogue displays a strained familial relationship. It tells us that things aren't perfect in Napoleon's home. This is supported when we fail to see Napoleon's parents at any point during the movie. The dialogue reinforces that this movie is not only hilarious, but also tells us about an underdog with an imperfect life, an underdog that, in spite of the strikes against him, manages to find happiness.
Now that you've met Napoleon and Kip, it's time that you meat Uncle Rico (pun intended, it'll make sense later). He is called in to watch Napoleon and Kip after their grandmother, in Uncle Rico's words, "broke her coccyx". Bluntly put, Rico is a broken record. We learn that he was a quarterback for a football team in '82 and that, had the coach put him in fourth quarter, his life would be much different. After all this time, he still believes in his athletic talent; this he catches on film, just to prove to the world, and to himself, that he could've won that football game. Rico also fails to move past the steak he eats almost every meal (now the pun makes sense). Napoleon and Uncle Rico antagonize each other all throughout the movie, making for some hilarious, but also thoughtful, moments. It seemed like Grandma was the one person that didn't bother Napoleon, at least not to the degree that others do. How must have Napoleon felt when she was taken from him so suddenly, being left with an uncle that was out to get him? Uncle Rico turns out as sort of an antagonist, causing serious problems in Napoleon's life. Even though Uncle Rico's presence offers unlimited laughs, it also acts as an obstacle for Napoleon to overcome, a catalyst for him to grow and find happiness.
Now for the innumerable hilarious moments and quotes in Napoleon Dynamite. There is a point in the movie where Kip and Uncle Rico team up to make some extra money. To do this, they sell plates and cups to unsuspecting neighbors. During a sale, Rico promises that a mini sailboat would be included with a twenty-four piece set of tableware. Useless, isn't it? To our surprise, however, the wife leans over to his husband and urgently whispers "I want that". The husband then confirms that this sailboat is indeed included in the twenty-four piece set. To show the unmatched strength of the plastic bowl included in the set, Rico asks the husband to try and tear the bowl, which he is unable to do. We then cut to a scene where Kip tries the same maneuver with his client, instead testing the plastic against the wheel of a car. "Dang it!" Kip exclaims: he drives away, leaving both his client and the remnants of the crushed bowl behind. Another great moment of this movie occurs when Napoleon claims that Kip just sits around all day. Kip replies, "You're just jealous I've been chatting with babes online all day". The doorbell rings and Napoleon slaps Kip, per his challenge, before answering. A girl named Deb stands at the door and explains that she is selling homemade trinkets to make money for college. In response to her explanation, Kip shouts, "Your mom goes to college". Deeply scarred, Deb drops her "crap" on Napoleon's porch and makes an awkward run for it. Moments like these are what make the movie worth watching and they're peppered through the entire experience. Notice, however, that most of these moments have a problem. Kip chatting with babes gets in the way of Napoleon's respect for his brother. Kip's shouted comment shows us what treatment goes around in Napoleon's home. As for the first scene, that's just hilarious. But these other scenes show us again and again that things aren't right in Napoleon's life. He is the underdog because he is under the thumb of Kip and Uncle Rico, as well as the bullies and "popular" kids at school. At one point, Napoleon asks a popular girl if she would play a game with him; she shakes her head, perplexed that someone like him would even ask someone like her to do that. She leaves. Napoleon is treated poorly by many, and he tends to treat others the same way in return. The power of this movie comes when he learns to love, trust, and act in kindness.
It is true that Napoleon's relationship with Kip and Uncle Rico, along with the hilarious snapchots scattered throughout the movie, make it worth watching. It is also true that the uplifting message found in the movie, that anyone can be happy in life, no matter how unlikely it may seem, makes the movie worth watching. Finally, it is true that I simply don't have the space or the ability to convey the quality of Napoleon Dynamite! The way that I explain these scenes simply doesn't do them justice. I even have to leave out a ton of scenes, such as the orange-throwing, the cow-shooting, the epic dance, the tater tots, the delayed kick, and countless others. These scenes, along with the ones I've shared, create a picture of humor and a picture of hope. I can't fully capture the goodness of Napoleon Dynamite, but he has fully captured my adoration.
... Your wildest dreams will come true.
Tina, you fat slob, come get your dinner. Gosh!