From the opening credits that arrive tastefully (ish) presented on an assortment of plates, accompanied by a twee folky song, to the post credits scene where the new bride is serenaded awfully – but sincerely – by her stringy dweeb of a groom before they are both surprise gifted a new horse, Napoleon Dynamite proves itself as a film where the quirk never ends…
We first meet Napoleon Dynamite in all his typical mismatched glory. An awkward red white-boy fro casts a shadow on his giant protruding buck teeth and dead expressionless eyes. His attire is similarly confusing, Jeans a size too small, a seventies shirt and eighties shoes, he is the personification of last year’s Thrift Shop song, only it seems he arrived with a few less than twenty dollars in his pocket. In the dark.
Once at school, Nappy D uses his first period to carefully sketch unicorns, before giving a speech about Loch Ness that concludes with a whimper and further confusion.
The beauty of Napoleon Dynamite is that the character is a 16 year old who acts like a 6 year old and is played by a 26 year old. And he is far from the sole source of either aggravation or charm, depending on your perspective. If there was just Napoleon you might feel sorry for him, but in this town it seems half the population are five lines of chocolate short of a Kit Kat bar.
There is the homely girl with no apparent personality that has a fledgling career in providing glamour photos for the obviously unglamourous. The Hispanic boy Pedro who talks in a stilted monotone and has decided to run for class president. And Napoleon’s family proves he is hardly a black sheep. Grandma loves dune biking with the alterna set. Uncle Remo never emerged from this side of the seventies and films himself throwing footballs as if that will retrospectively get him the scholarship he never saw in his youth, and brother Kip contemplates a martial arts career while spending hours talking to large black women in chat rooms (well at least one).
In fact the half dozen ‘normal’ people in this film only seem to exist the highlight the various eccentricities of the bulk of the townsfolk.
What the characters do is irrelevant. It’s how they do. Always a u- turn from the norm, though in a mostly inoffensive way. The film stretched itself a little too far near the conclusion while striving for what might pass as a finale, but the characters and events are too harmless to hate or really give much thought to. Napoleon Dynamite has become synonymous with overrated quirky one note stuff, and indeed it is all those things. However neither the film or the characters in it are obnoxious enough to spend time hating. Feel free to ignore Napoleon Dynamite, but in its own way it earns the right to exist.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. A film built around a community riddled with lovable idiots. It doesn’t always work, but it takes great pains to not offend.