Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Napolean Dynamite

Film #164


A listless and alienated teenager decides to help his new friend win the class presidency in their small western high school, while he must deal with his bizarre family life back home.

Year 1, Day 165

BEFORE: Napolean Dynamite is next up on the list of films in the movie marathon. From what I’ve heard, this seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it film with some strong supporters and strong opponents. I guess I’ll be finding out which side I fall on in just a little while.

AFTER: Napolean Dynamite tries so hard to be funny but fails horribly. There are tear-jerking dramas that have made me laugh more than Napolean Dynamite did and the parts where I laughed it was more of a short chuckle rather than long guffaw.

Much of the intended humor, or what I’m guessing is the intended humor, comes from the characters and the long stretches of silence, allowing time for the joke to sink in. The first problem is the characters. Based on Napolean Dynamite’s (Jon Heder) character description, he seems like a character that would ellicit a lot of sympathy from the viewer. He’s a high school geek who is socially awkward and gets beaten up. This is very apparent from the start but there’s never that feeling of sympathy. Napolean just seems awkward and we don’t see any aspect that makes us care for him.

Not only does the film miss the boat on making the characters easy to connect with, but that also creates a domino effect with the second aspect of its humor: silence. Silence can be a very powerful tool and amplify an intended emotion; in this case, laughter. Instead, whenever Napolean, Pedro (Efren Ramirez), Kip (Aaron Ruell), or someone else makes a “comical” gesture, facial expression, or line of dialogue and the joke fails, there’s now a long moment of silence that just makes the joke even more awkward.

After having seen Napolean Dynamite I have a feeling the love-it-or-hate-it statement I made in the before section is true. I did not like this film whatsoever, the funniest part for me was Rex’s (Diedrich Bader) TV ad for his Rex Kwon Do lessons (that got a few chuckles out of me), but many others seem to enjoy it. The film holds a 71% on the Tomatometer and it made a few best-of-the-year lists in 2004 back when it was released. My recommendation to you is to make your choice whether or not to watch this film cautiously. You may find the comedy in Napolean Dynamite funny. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll find it stupid and thinking to yourself, why did I watch this movie.

RATING: 2 out of 5