Saturday, October 30, 2004

Napoleon Dynamite - Whether it's dynamite or not depends on your patience...

It looks like an Indie. It smells and tastes like an Indie. But "Napoleon Dynamite" seems to be playing in every multiplex. So how can it be an indie?

I think that, unfortunately, whenever movies are in the multiplex, we audiences have this American notion that the film must be a very exciting, thrilling movie. You know, lots of car chases, some sex, recognizable movie stars. If the movie doesn't follow this script, we're bored after the first 15 minutes. If it's a video, we push the "eject" button and will never visit it again.

Which would be a shame with Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon is a teenager living in Idaho. Probably because of his overwhelming geekiness, he has this overinflated sense of worth. He tends to pick up strange people as friends. (He might as well, since he doesn't have any others.) For amusement at home, he goes out and watches the family llama grow and practices his karate kicks. There's not much to do in Idaho, apparently, for the average teenager.

If this tale were just about Napoleon, we'd be bored. However, enter Uncle Rico, whose best year was in 1982 when he was on the high school football team. Rico is now a sleazy salesman, available to pitch anything to the little old lady down the street, just to make a few bucks and to make life a little interesting. Napoleon's brother is out of high school, but has no life outside the internet. He almost outdoes Napoleon for geekiness, but the two do not communicate outside of yelling at each other about things like tying up the telephone line. You know, like how you talked with your siblings when you were growing up.

Enter Pedro. Pedro is the only Hispanic kid in school, and his claim to fame is the ability to grow a mustache. Pedro becomes Napoleon's fast friend because, well, nobody else will talk to Pedro, and Pedro's willing to give anybody an even break. Pedro's real problem is that he's just too normal, perhaps too intelligent for this group of kids, but he's stuck here, and he's trying to make the best of it. Everything heats up when Pedro runs for student body president against the most popular girl in high school, with Napoleon as his manager.

I did not laugh at all throughout the movie. As one of my younger friends told me, high school was bad enough without seeing it on a slow-moving screen. However, afterwards I laughed about it all the way home, especially in discussing the movie with friends. Upon reflection, it's hilarious. But it's not for everyone.

If you can sit through slow movies while waiting for punch lines to sink in, while waiting for characters to take hold in the storyline, you will probably love this movie. However, if watching kids endure the pain of adolescence and boredom could not remotely strike you as funny, do what Uncle Rico should have done as the high school quarterback in the big game in '82: Pass.


At 11:56 AM, Blogger Grosservogel said...

Having grown up in a small town, even though San Diego was only 30 miles away, but being removed by several decades from both this town and High School, I found this movie to be extremely hilirious. My wife and children also found this movie very funny. Jr High, High School and College are all in their own ways tramatic but the human psyche is very elastic; recovering, if you allow it to, from these traumas. Having lived through and survived, I loved that this movie was able to successful poke fun at, to satirize coming of age in this manner.

By the I was a major league geek during this period and probably still am.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Grosservogel said...

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