Friday night, after some shenanigans in the afternoon sun, Miss L and I rented Napoleon Dynamite. Miss L wasn't too keen on it, but after some cajoling I got her to agree.
Napoleon is an unattracitve, geeky high-shool kid just trying to get through life in a rural town in Idaho. His brother Kip, an even more geeky 30-something, lives at home and plans his days around his online chat schedules. When the movie opens Grandma heads out on a motorcycle vacation, leaving them in the care of Uncle Rico. A door-to-door salesman, Uncle Rico longs for the days of his football-playing youth. The story has three main storylines: a growing love interest for Napoleon’s brother, an election for high school president, and an odd but developing relationship between Napoleon and Deb, a fellow high-schooler who earns extra cash by taking photos at a Glamour Shots salon.
The high geek-factor of the main characters, their drive to pull one over on the popular kids, and a number of off the wall situations all reminded me of Welcome to the Dollhouse. Napoleon has a bit more rage and internal frustration than Dawn "Wiener Dog" Wiener, but he's that same type of frustrated, outsider teen that most anyone can identify with.
Two things really surprised me about the movie. First was the "love" story between Napoleon and Deb. The awkward silences, their discomfort but interest in touching each other, the ineffectual attempts at flirting, and a cute match of tetherball make up most of the romance. But I enjoyed the hints without the major payoff that comes with a kiss at the prom followed by a round of applause so typical of teen movies. It was different, and actually more real, at least alongside my own high school experiences.
The second surprise was a complete lack of cussing. To be honest, I didn't even notice it myself until it was brought up in the DVD commentary section. Most teen-oriented movies shovel in the expletives whenever possible, so it’s kind of refreshing to see this movie work against that.
What really makes it work are the characterizations of these outsider characters; as odd as they are we cheer for them and want them to succeed. Because no matter how popular you were in high school yourself, we’ve all had those moments of the more popular crushing you down.
Overall a fun little independent comedy. Highly suggested if you’re looking for a slightly oddball flick.