Sunday, February 28, 2010
While we were there a movie came on television called "Napoleon Dynamite." I asked my son, what the heck was that all about. He started laughing and told me it was a cult film, one of those films that grows on its own to great popularity over the years. Previous cult films include "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Office Space." Son and daughter-in-law told me that when they first watched "Napoleon Dynamite," they didn't get it. They thought the film was odd, unfunny and pointless. But they felt they had to watch it again, and did so. They began to enjoy it and see the humor they had missed the first time around.
Cult films are quirky, a bit crazy and a bit weird. They are also very funny. I told my son "play the movie!" He did. I enjoyed it immensely.
Napoleon Dynamite is a nerd, a student in high school in Idaho. He's not only a nerd, he brings nerdism to a new level of absurdity. He is the renaissance of nerds. Napoleon has very curly, blond hair, wears glasses and bears an eternal expression of irritation. His bottom lip always droops. He has the physique of an anorexic.
Napoleon has a Walter Mitty view of the world, always creating fantasies to displace his dull reality. He tells classmates he spent the summer in Alaska hunting wolverines. They ask him how many he shot. He says "Fifty." They ask, "What kind of gun did you use?" Looking exasperated at such stupid questions, Napoleon replies irritably, "A 12 gauge, of course!"
Napoleon makes friends with a new kid in school, a new immigrant from Mexico named Pedro. Pedro is a nice guy, soft spoken and accepts all of Napoleon's exaggerations at face value. Pedro, like Napoleon, does not understand the cliques and castes of high school, so asks Summer Wheatly (the most popular girl in school) to the prom. She says no. So he asks another girl, a nerdy outcast named Deb who has a crush on Napoleon, and she says yes. Napoleon gets a pity date when a mother forces her daughter to accept his invitation to the prom. Napoleon's date ditches him at the dance but Pedro allows him to dance with Deb, and their budding romance takes root.
Other interesting characters in the film are Napoleon's Uncle Rico, a weird guy who drives a van and sells Tupperware for a living, continually dreaming of 1982 in high school, where he blew the big football game, losing the state championship. He buys a time machine off of E-Bay to go back and win the big game. The device fails to work properly, rendering serious electric shock to the groin area. Napoleon tries it with the same result.
Then there's Napoleon's brother Kip, who dreams of being a martial arts champion, has a girlfriend that he met online and has never seen, and is an assistant to Uncle Ric in the Tupperware business. One day Kip's online girlfriend catches a bus from Detroit and shows up on his doorstep, a tall, beautiful black woman named Lafawnduh. Strangely enough, she's crazy about Kip, who starts wearing head scarfs and fashion from the hood.
Lafawnduh thinks Napoleon could benefit from some hot music, so gives him a tape of her favorite songs. He likes them so much that he spends hours practicing dancing to the music.
The defining moment of the film comes when Pedro decides to run for class president. Opposing him is the snobbish blond, Summer, who refused his invitation to the prom. Napoleon becomes Pedro's campaign manager, making posters by hand urging students to "vote for Pedro." He even gets a T shirt that has "Vote for Pedro" printed on the front. You may have seen replicas of this T shirt, since they are popular with college and high school kids.
As part of the campaign, each candidate must give a speech to the assembled student body, followed by a skit. Pedro and Napoleon didn't know about the skit. Pedro has stage fright and gives a very short speech. Since no skit was prepared, Napoleon has to immediately improvise. The principal then announces Pedro's skit, and the stage curtains open to reveal....Napoleon, wearing his "Vote for Pedro" T shirt. Lafawnduh's music is played at Napoleons' request, and he goes into a wild dance that is surprisingly coordinated if not actually good. The audience erupts in applause, and Pedro's election chances are seriously improved. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen the film.
Update: I found the original dance routine on YouTube. It is embedded below.