Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

(On DVD, August 2005) To say that this is a cult movie is to abuse understatement. Much as saying that this will appeal to a select number of viewers. Even I, as a self-professed uber-nerd, as a guy for can love even the stupidest films, had a hard time making it to the end of this one. The eponymous character is a nerd without skills, living in what seems to be a town similarly devoid of normality. Everyone in this film, with very few exceptions, behave in orthogonal ways to what people usually do: while that would have been amusing in a five minutes short film, here it drags on for 82 long and painful minutes, like nails being scratched on a blackboard. Believe me; the joke gets old quickly, backed-up with the most intentionally lifeless acting ever committed to film since Ed Wood. There is no interface between Napoleon’s weirdness and the normal world: naturalism (or, heck, realism) never really intrudes in this film. (Even writer/director Jared Hess’ aggressively dull direction offers no respite: The best we get are shots of girls being horrified.) It sort of pays off at the end with a glorious dance number and the unexpected escape of a character to a ghetto-gangster life, but there is no shame at stopping the film after only fifteen minutes if you suspect it won’t get any better. I suspect that my reaction to the film is shaped by my own experience of geekness: All of the nerds in my life may be socially inept and prone to weird and obsessive behaviour, but all of them had some superb skill or two. Technically, socially inept people without skills are called “retards”, and that may or may not sum up my final reaction to Napoleon Dynamite.

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