Napoleon Dynamite Review

So I watched Napoleon Dynamite…

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As you can imagine, I watch a lot of movies and I’ve developed somewhat of a routine concerning the review process. I’ll watch a movie, then write a few short notes on it and then, unless I urgently need to release a post, I’ll write the review a day or a few days later after I’ve had time to properly digest the movie. Only reason I mention this is because the notes I wrote for this film were the shortest I’ve ever written. In fact, they were only three letters: WTF!

Okay, basic plot: um…well…wow this is a difficult one to describe. Napoleon (Jon Heder) is an extremely awkward teen who lives in the town of Preston, Idaho with his grandmother and older brother, Kip. When Napoleon’s grandmother is injured in a motorbike accident, Napoleon’s uncle, Rico, comes to live with the boys. Oh but before that he meets this girl, Deb, who sells cosmetics. Then he meets Pedro, who’s the new kid at his high school. Then Napoleon helps Pedro run for class president. Oh and somewhere in there Napoleon’s Uncle and brother sell Tupperware. Um…yeah…WTF?

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When I think about film and (in particular) their plots, there are three broad categories: 1. Formulaic films which just walk the beaten path in the same way as those before them; 2. Innovative films which walk the beaten path but in new and exciting ways and, lastly, 3. Original films which walk a completely new path and do it in ways that we’ve never seen before. Napoleon Dynamite doesn’t belong to any of these categories because there is secretly a fourth category. I don’t even know what to name this category, films in this category aren’t even walking a path – they’re swimming, they’re floating in space, there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to what they’re doing. The familiar structure of beginning, middle and end, don’t apply to these movies. They are the renegades, the outliers of films; films that exist completely out of the normal spectrum of expectation.

This movie reminded me a lot of Freddie Got Fingered and Being John Malkovich, in that, it’s so odd. It’s impossible to nail this movie down or confine it to a genre; it’s a pure, unaltered, unfiltered product from the imaginations of its ceeators and is a stark contrast from the majority of films we see. It’s rather difficult to accurately review this movie because it’s so devoid of the traditional aspects of film. Napoleon has no goals or achievements he’s striving to attain. There’s no journey or mission that has to be completed; in essence, there’s no point to the story. Now, normally this would be a problem but because this movie is so far from normal, the lack of resolution in its plot just forms part of its charm. This is a movie that isn’t trying to make you like it, it’s very much like a hipster – it’s non-conformative, non-agreeable and you don’t understand it for large parts. But because it’s so unlike anything you’ve ever seen, all these qualities that would normally aggravate you, entice you in this film.

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With the exception of Jon Heder, I didn’t find this film all that funny. Napoleon is quite funny due to his incredible social awkwardness and aloof personality but this film had very few lines that made me laugh out loud. I suspect that this is one of those movies that gets better with time and needs multiple viewings to really get into the humour. This was actually my first time watching this movie and I think I was just so confused that I might have missed a few jokes. A thing I didn’t miss though was Napoleon’s dance at the student president election. That is, honestly, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen and really helped pick up this film’s rating in my mind. But it’s difficult to rate this movie because it’s so unlike everything else.

Overall, Napoleon Dynamite is…well…um…it’s NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, GOSH, WHAT DO YOU THINK? (If you’ve watched the movie, you’ll hopefully know what I’m referencing). This film is truly, truly bizarre and I still don’t know how to describe it. You need to watch this movie at least once in your life just so you can experience its unconventional style. 6/10

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5 thoughts on “Napoleon Dynamite Review

  1. Oh my gosh, I’ve watched this movie a few times, albeit a good few years ago. The first time I watched it, I was so ‘WTF’, I didn’t know if it was good or terrible. I laughed a lot though, and that one scene was pretty epic, the dance scene. I also subsequently named one of my pets ‘Pedro’. I enjoyed it simply because it was so out there, and I like movies that are very different. I don’t know if I’d enjoy it if I watched it now, after so many years, but back then I appreciated the zaniness of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I need to watch it again, I think it’s gonna be one of those movies I end up loving. I think that’s the best word to describe this one “zaniness”. It’s just so different and I’m still deciding whether that’s a good or bad thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had the same response but ultimately ended up really enjoying it, but only after watching it for the second time. I really enjoyed your review, what a cool flashback!

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  2. Glad you enjoyed it enough to entertain the notion of going back to it. I really hope you do. I loved this movie the very first time I saw it. It made me laugh all the way through. I don’t think it’s as much of an outlier as you think, either. The traditional narrative structure is very strong and our hero does have goals he’d like to achieve. They’re just not noteworthy in the way we’re used to from other movies. He simply wants to get Pedro elected Class President and be friends with Deb. The difference for me is how quirky all the characters are. It’s like they leapt from Wes Anderson’s most absurd dreams. Somehow, they combine to make a wonderful coming-of-age flick that’s better than making sweet jumps with my bike.

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