Monday, December 20, 2004

Napoleon Dynamite

Two entries in one day! I should stay home sick more often.

I go to a lot of movies. I'm not all that picky...I'll see my share of "Films", but I also enjoy kung-fu flicks and stupid teenage romantic comedies and Julia Roberts vehicles...I just really like movies. And I see a lot of stuff that I'd say is good or enjoyable or thought-provoking, but it's not all that often that I see a movie that really resonates. Well, I've found a new film that inspires me, and that film is "Napoleon Dynamite" (available on DVD December 21st.)

Now, I'm not recommending that everyone in my personal blog-o-sphere rent this. For example, my mother would HATE it. And I admit that I have unconventional taste in films. Last year, I was one of the people who thought "Lost in Translation" was a beautiful story of pure love, and I this year I'm bucking the trend by asserting that "Garden State" is uplifting and sweet; trust me when I say these are not reviews you'll see often of these films. But if you're one of those people who understand why "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "American Splendor" make me laugh, or why I can't stop watching the Kristie McNichol movie about the peg-legged violinist, then you must immediately see this movie several times.

The protagonist is the teenage mega-geek, Napoleon. He's awkward, he's angry, he wears aviator glasses with some subtle, smokey shading, and he has a lovely collection of t-shirts with horse pictures. He wears moon boots. He draws cartoon unicorns that fart. At times he seems borderline retarded.

I love him. He is perfect.

Napoleon embodies all that is brave and true and honorable in this world. Even though he's regularly smashed into lockers at school, he can still make up convincing stories about shooting 40 wolverines on vacation in Alaska (they were going to kill his cousin...what would YOU do? JEEZ!), and he can brag about his nunchuck skills like he's some ninja master. He is simultaneously totally aware and totally oblivious to his utter outcast status. He is proud, he is bold, and he is exasperated with a world that just doesn't get it.

There is really no plot to this movie. Nerd tries to get through life. He is surrounded by misfits. He makes a nerdy friend, gets a crush on a nerdy girl, learns to dance some wicked groove, and helps catapult his nerd friend to victory in the election for class president. It's kind of slow-moving, and at times even painful to watch. (Ex. Napoleon tries to befriend girl he's got a crush on, so he sits down by her at lunch and says "I notice you're drinking 1%? Is it 'cause you think you're fat? Cause you're not. You could totally drink whole." That is hands down the best pick-up line of all time, even if you can't look at the screen when he says it.)

So why see it? Because this movie is the biggest window into the geek soul that I've seen in ages. It's not mean like WTTD. It's not inane like "Revenge of the Nerds". It tells our jokes, it captures our anger, and it accurately illustrates the way we make the world accept us by refusing to embrace the status quo.

Lots of reviews say that this movie is bad because it makes you laugh AT Napoleon, not with him...that you can't empathize with him because you never get to see what makes him tick. I posit that these reviewers were popular kids with inflated egos who are just too stupid to understand. Not only would a smart reviewer not resort to the "at-not-with" cliche to make their point, but A) part of geek culture is knowing and accepting that you'll never really know what makes a geek tick but they're beautiful anyway, and B) you're supposed to laugh at geeks...even we laugh at each other. But just because we're doing funny things, it doesn't make us laughable.

Napoleon Dynamite is a great movie. It's not particularly smart, or eloquent, or interesting. But it's very funny. And let's face it...any movie that can make an awkward, gangly kid with a bright red afro look cool, even in a terra cotta three-piece suit, well, it's all right by me.

1 comment:

Pam said...

Mindy, just so you know, I LOVED Garden State. I thought it was the best movie I'd seen since Rushmore, a clear oversight in your pantheon of nerd movies.