Thursday, July 22, 2004

Napoleon Dynamite Review

Went to see Napoleon Dynamite a week ago. It's gotten mixed reviews, but seems well on its way to gathering a cult following. The day before I saw it, I overheard two guys on the sidewalk talking about it. There was an ad in the local paper hawking tickets for a Napoleon Dynamite party.

The tale of a nerdy high school kid, the movie avoids the cliches of High School movies by playing everything deadpan. The main characters, Napoleon and his friend Pedro, never show much emotion. It's hard to tell if they are stupid, stoned or just emotionally void.

Deadpan can go too far. By playing every scene with no feeling, the actors gave me little to care about. No feeling on the screen, I guess, no feeling in the audience.

The film's partial redemption is its weirdness. The movie plays like a blend of "Welcome to the Dollhouse", "Gummo" and "Ferris Bueller." I'd never seen anything quite like it.

The plot, spare though it is, is one of triumph. The story is the familiar High School yarn about the nerd who overcomes the cool kids and his own insecurities to finally make a real human connection. Napoleon matures, but to see it you have to watch closely. The story unfolds without all the normal cues as to how the viewer should feel, no soaring music at the nerd's moment of glory, no humilation for the cool jock.

In spite of its faults Napoleon Dynamite is worth seeing if you're prepared for a movie that's quiet, a little strange, a little demanding and, if nothing else, surprisingly original.


If you like High School flicks, here's one I think is vastly under-rarted.

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