Napoleon Dynamite: Too Uncool for School

I saw Napoleon Dynamite last night after hearing too many personal recommendations to avoid it.

Napoleon Dynamite school danceThis film has been dismissed as cruel by some film critics, including Roger Ebert, but to quote the title character they're all a bunch of freakin' idiots. The movie clearly loves the misfits whose story it tells.

Dynamite is about four outcasts on the lowest rung of the social ladder in a nowhere town in Idaho: Napoleon, a lonely, awkward nerd that even nerds avoid; Kip, his 32-year-old bed-wetting recluse brother; Rico, their high school glory reliving jock uncle; and Pedro, a new Hispanic kid in school.

All four have delusions that drive the deadpan, low-key film: Pedro wants to be class president, Rico can't stop replaying 1982, Kip romances a chat-room soulmate who won't send a full photo, and Napoleon believes he can develop skills that will make him socially acceptable -- the latest being dance moves from a thrift-store videotape.

This is an easy subject for ridicule, and some of the laughs come from their clumsy interactions with the unkind world. My favorite scene is when Napoleon, Pedro, and Deb, the only girl who will spend time with them, attend a school dance. Alphaville's "Forever Young" plays while the three wallflowers watch their peers, and the yearning lyric "I want to be forever young" has never sounded more like a fate worse than death.

Ultimately, the sympathy of the film is clear: Every one of these clueless but guileless misfits is rewarded for his delusions, but not in a big melodramatic way. Everything in this movie is underplayed, even the laughs, which makes them funnier. I love how the film resists the urge to make Napoleon's school tormenters more villainous -- most of the time they are more indifferent than actively malicious.

The only thing I didn't like was an ending tacked on after the credits, which followed a tetherball scene that perfectly capped the film.

Proof there is still justice in the world: Actor Efren Ramirez (Pedro) had to choose between starring in this no-hope $400,000 film and the $95 million blockbuster The Alamo.

Improbably enough, Napoleon Dynamite has become twice as big a hit, grossing $44 million to The Alamo's $22 million.


You used the ND gross link for the Alamo.

I, too, loved this movie. My favorite scene was Napoleon calling his brother from school: "Come and get me, I don't feel good!" "Well can you at least bring me my chapstick?"

Fixed the link. I'm such a flippin' moron.

"I'm not using the nurse's chapstick you sicko!"

'twas a funny film. Pedro was ultra-low key and hilarious. My friend (who first saw it on a plane while sitting across from the world's pre-eminent astrophysicist Ed Witten, of all people) and I were discussing the many one-liners we find ourselves quoting:

"Do these chickens have large talons?"

"Maybe I can build her a cake"

"Maybe you can get your junk out of my locker because I don't have room for my nunchucks (sp)"


His brother even printed up "Vote for Pedro" shirts for his pre-teen daughters. We were wondering: does this film hope to become a cult classic, or will his T-shirts be met with complete confusion in five years?

These are perilous times, and never have we needed more
some comic relief from the pressing
demands of everday life.
Napolean Dynamite was not to my taste,
but I thought it was a refreshing antidote
to the underwrought plot lines and
stale sight gags of what often passes for comedy nowadays.

Speaking of "Forever Young", last night I walked in the candlelight procession
to James Dean's gravesite in Fairmount, Indiana.

A respectably sized, international crowd was in attendance.

When we arrived at his resting place,
we placed lit candles a the foot of his headstone.

Then things got quiet as we realized
no one had any prepared remarks.

What happened next was an inspirational exercise in human co-operation:

Each person who felt moved to do so began to speak,
and to offer words that expressed how
he or she felt about the great spirit that was James Dean.

Today, I realized that what we did last night was, in its own way, a sort of
Society of Friends of James Dean
meeting in the old-fashioned Quaker spirit.

Jimmy was raised in the Quaker faith.

I see the character of Napolean Dynamite
as a Nerd antithesis of James Dean,
the very Icon of Cool.

I believe that James Dean, by a great effort of will,
transformed himself into a new kind of young person.

He created a template for the inhabitants of a new place:
Teenage Culture.

I believe, as David Dalton has explicated in his wonderful book,
The Mutant King, that
James Dean projected an image
that each succeeding generation
in these times can embrace as
an expression of its own
anxiety and confusion, something all
of us pass through
in Teenagehood.

I consider this a miraculous development
that is part of God's plan
to bring us all together in
Peace, Love, and Understanding,
very much in the old-fashioned
Quaker Spirit.

Cheers, amen.

This may be heresy, but I believe that James Dean's greatest film achievement was not his movies,

but the amazing record of photographs
he staged as director of content
and action.

James Dean was a brilliant master
of projection, who transcended
his temporal limitations
to become one of the great
Zen masters of Light
transmuted in film.

What an incredible outpouring of creative Spirit began when he went to New York.

God bless that man, he gave so much,
at such a cost.

And I will say, as a true
Son of the Soil,
that I wil love James Dean forever
for posing so proudly,
with such dignity,
hat in hand, with a pig.

God bless you, James Dean, you deserve

my email is
I was wondering if i may use one of your pictures for a webmasters class? i am a student at summit middle school! please email me for guestions!

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