Quickly adopted by college-aged hipsters and declared fans of “quirky” films, Napoleon Dynamite
is quite possibly the worst thing to happen to cinema since the birth of Michael Bay. Some have been quick to liken Jared Hess’ droll, deadpan style of humor to Wes Anderson’s deliberately tranquil style of filmmaking. These comparisons seem to only notice the surface-deep similarities of static screen compositions and the focus on character interaction over dynamice plot details; far more critical are the differences, most notably the fact that Wes Anderson actually cares about his characters and their existential plights, whereas Napoleon Dynamite
exists only to parade them around for ninety minutes worth of soulless ridicule. The cast of characters: Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), a socially handicapped loser of the lowest order, Pedro Sanchez (Efren Ramirez), a walking Mexican stereotype seemingly on a steady stream of Thorozine, and Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), an ex-college football athlete who hopes to time travel back to 1982, where things should have turned out differently. The film’s structure (something like intentional piecemeal) only reinforces its contempt for its characters, not that they particularly deserve any sympathy in the first place. The film is content to allow these sad souls to wander from one set piece to another, engaging in pointless behavior that aims to inspire laughs the movie pretends it doesn’t recognize; all the viewer can do is sit back and watch to see what gags work and which ones don’t (for me, only the poorly-timed execution of a sick cow counts as genuine humor). Laughter multiplies, and, like the convicted murderers who look back with horror at their lynching of an innocent man in Fritz Lang’s Fury
, I too was mortified upon second viewing at the fact that I fell for the film’s hateful indulgence the first time around. That the screening of the movie I attended was one of my few social encounters with the fraternity members amongst my dorm is a telling piece of evidence; Napoleon Dynamite
is equivalent to the relentless mockery of social outcasts by the popular folk on a school playground: nasty, undeserved, and completely fucking pointless.