Movie Opinion

We had a lot of people recommend "Napoleon Dynamite" to us. Good friends, intelligent friends, friends with impeccable (or at least roughly parallel) taste in movies. Last night, we borrowed it (from one of these friends) and watched it.

What a piece of crap.

It's been a really really long time since I've seen a movie that I disliked so strongly. Not because of any intention on the part of the creators (like, I probably wouldn't enjoy watching "Hotel Rwanda," but I'm not supposed to) but out of anger that there is an hour and a half of my life that I'm not going to get back.

Am I missing something? Was there some deep message that passed me by? I am not ordinarily insensitive to nuance; I am no stranger to irony, to deadpan humour, to satire, to black comedy. This was none of those things. It was just a waste of time and film (note that I am not saying talent). There were about 20 seconds of the show that I didn't dislike, and that was only because they featured an alpaca. Alpacas make everything better.

Afterwards, when we could speak again, R:tAG staggered to our video shelf and weakly grabbed the first DVD to hand, just to try to clear our mental palates and let us sleep that night. This cinema sorbet turned out to be Spiderman 2, and it seemed like freakin' Casablanca, let me tell you. Even the preview, for some piece of fluff called "Hitch," seemed like a brilliant masterpiece.



  1. Alan said...

    I was sure that I had warned you. All copies of that movie need to be burned. In a very hot fire. With gasoline. Until ashes. No, even ashes are too big to remain behind. I also lost that time forever, and I send you my deepest sympathies for the misinformation you were given. I hope that you can forgive those people some day.  

  2. Terry said...

    It's not that bad of a movie. GOSH!


    While I find myself in the unusual position of defending a medicore movie (was it the greatest movie ever made? No, but it managed to amuse me several times, which many movies have failed to do) I can see why some do not like it.

    But how can you hate lines like:
    "You know, there's like a butt-load of gangs at this school. This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bo staff."

    "I see you're drinking 1%. Is that 'cause you think you're fat? 'Cause you're not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to."

    "You know, like nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills... Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills."

    I liked this movie simply because it's so original. There's never been anything like Napoleon Dynamite. I kept expecting the movie to take the easy way out, to do like every other movie does and once we got to know Napoleon, we'd realize he's just like everyone else and there's really no difference between him and the 'cool kids'. Well, much like real life, Napoleon is what he is, and while there's beauty in his weirdness, ultimately he is what he is.

    Having said all that, I do agree that the movie didn't deserve all the acclaim that it got, but I'd still rate it higher than most of the formulaic garbage that Hollywood spits out.  

  3. Terry said...


    I edited that last paragraph... Ignore that second "he is what he is." You know what I meant.  

  4. Amy said...

    Thank you, Alan.

    Terry, I think that to call that movie mediocre is an insult to mediocre movies. Sorry, even those prize lines failed to change my expression into neutral from a horrified rictus, much less make me laugh.

    "Original" is not enough. Adding sardines to chocolate cake is an original idea. Sleep
    was an original movie.
    It doesn't mean it's good. There's a reason why there's never been a movie like this; usually common sense, or sobriety, or the tactful guidance of friends nips these things in the bud.

    The formula that formulaic Hollywood films follow is at least designed to entertain. Sure, it's almost always the lowest common denominator, but at least the intent is there. This movie had no plot, no humour, no characterization, no special effects, no scenery, no nudity... I'm running out of reasons to watch a movie. Each of these at least is a term in the Hollywood formula (even if their constant is <0.01, to be a geek).

    It did have an alpaca. I will give it that, but only that.  

  5. Amy said...

    Man, I have too much hate to fit into one comment...

    It wasn't even that the movie was pointless, actually. It was that I disagree with you, Terry, that the movie was sympathetic to any of the characters. The only theme, if I can dignify it with that title, was that geeky hicks are inherently funny. It invited you to laugh at all the stupid pathetic weirdos.

    As someone who is towards the "weird geeky hick" end of the spectrum myself and whose peer group has always been the freaks, the movie was more cruel than anything.

    Double feh.  

  6. Anonymous said...

    Well, I was pretty sure that I was never going to see this movie. Now I'm absolutly sure.

    I'm basing this solely on the parts that people have repeatedly told me are 'good'. Mostly, this involves 'good' lines such as those mentioned above. Those lines, along with all the others that have been quoted to me as 'funny', leave me convinced that there is some essential kernel of pop culture that I'll just never understand.

    Why are these lines funny, and not just... sad? I've had any number of people whose grasp of consentual reality was a little shaky actually say stuff like that in my presence, and it always just makes me want to go have a lie down.

    Grrrr. I've never even seen the movie, and now it has doubled my lifetime use of scare quotes.


  7. Terry said...

    "As someone who is towards the "weird geeky hick" end of the spectrum myself and whose peer group has always been the freaks, the movie was more cruel than anything."

    I really couldn't fathom how you could dislike this movie so intensely... But I think I begin to understand. You took it personally.

    See, when I went to high school, I hung out with Napoleons. Heck, I probably was Napoleon. So I found this movie both a tad nostalgiac and was amused by the clever lines that were sprinkled throughout the movie. That's probably the heart of what I did like about this movie. That IS what we look like to the outside world.

    "The only theme, if I can dignify it with that title, was that geeky hicks are inherently funny."

    Umm.. I hate to break this to you Amy but they (we?) are. :) Everyone that's commented so far (Amy, Alan, Sky, Myself) has at one time or another done something unexpected and inherently funny. Because we are geeks. We aren't 'normal'. But that's not something I fear. It's the way I've been my whole life. I embrace it.

    But I strongly disagree that this movie is cruel or that it doesn't respect Napoleon. The climax of the movie is a moment where geeky, strange Napoleon Dynamite is put in a position that a 'normal' person would just accept and let Pedro fail. And it's only because he's a geek that he does something that a 'normal' person wouldn't, and as a result, he succeeds. And the ending, where he finds another who is geeky like him, was pretty uplifting and positive.

    I mean, I'm used to movies where the geek becomes ungeeky by the end of the movie, and as a result becomes cool, has lots of friends and life suddenly becomes so much better. Those are the movies that are cruel and insulting. "You could have friends if you just changed who you are." So it was SUCH a breath of fresh air to find at the end of the movie Napoleon is still a geek, still who he always was, but he's happy, he's found friends and life goes on. Because instead of playing tetherball, that final scene could've easily been Napoleon, Pedro & Deb sitting around a table pulling out the gaming books...

    I liked this movie because it made me chuckle. Because it felt 'real', if exaggerated. And mostly because it entertained me. And for all the reasons you list to watch a movie, ultimately entertainment is the only real reason.

    I don't tell you this because I somehow believe that I can convince you it's a good movie. I tell you this so you can understand why it was recommended to you.. And perhaps why you hate it so much.  

  8. neuba said...

    After reading all the comments, I will add my 2 cents.

    People don't put much stock into my movie opinions, as I like a lot of silly movies. Perhaps, that is why this one appealed to me so much.

    In regards to Terry's comments on the good parts of the movie, I agree. There were many quotes that I identified with, either having said similar things or the quote being related somehow to 'weird geek hick' personality.

    I think above all, I was inspired by his confidence. And by this I mean, the confidence he had in his geekiness. He knew who he was, and approached life in a way that said ' I don't care about what others think.'

    In the end, sometimes it is fun to watch some mindless humour. I wouldn't say I laughed my ass off, but I got a good giggle from it.  

  9. Amy said...

    "I tell you this so you can understand why it was recommended to you.. And perhaps why you hate it so much."

    Well, thanks *so* much for the character insight.

    OK, I'm going to temper my vitriol here. Of course I take "Let's all laugh at the freaks" personally. But don't imply that I dislike this movie because I don't understand it, or because I'm not comfortable with who I am or was.

    Anyway, to return to a more literary analysis, I think that the applause after the dance scene (and Pedro winning the election) was just as contrived and unrealistic as the worst excesses of Hollywood. After a day spent watching a video (admittedly with the help of a tape from (ooh!) a Black Woman, 'cause y'know, they have natural rhythm), the geek can become a magnetically compelling dancer and not only win back the heart of His Girl (the weird one, cause, y'know, that's all he deserves) but all his peers. Christ, Flashdance had a more realistic plot.

    Sure, ND hasn't changed at the end. At all. This is called "lack of character development" and is not a good thing in a story. This lack was partly why the character was as sympathetic and interesting as Beavis and/or Butthead (another form of "entertainment" based on the "stupid misfits are automatically funny" idea).

    I feel like I've spent as much time as I should even thinking about this, though. Feh and again feh.  

  10. Terry said...


    I wasn't meaning to offend here. I liked this movie. People liked this movie (It's sitting at 70% at meaning it's rating in the top 1/3 of movies released in 2004)

    The vast majority of people like this movie. Amy does not. She hates this movie. And not with a "I didn't like the movie", but with a "It made me angry".

    Look, you ASKED "Am I missing something?" and I didn't assume that was a rhetorical question. So please don't get upset when I happen to suggest the reason that your opinion differs from the mainstream.

    I know you're never going to like the movie. But please don't get mad because I happen to suggest why your reaction to the movie was so different from most (not all) other folks.  

  11. R:tAG said...

    I didn't care for it much either. The humour wasn't smart or funny of clever, it just seemed kinda mean. Sort of like watching a train wreck.

    Eh - to each his own.  

  12. Terry said...

    Since I seem to have annoyed/offended/upset Amy, I offer this by way of apology...

    Serenity in 2000 Words or Less
    "Take my Book, Take my Wash, kick me right smack in the crotch,
    I don't care, cause I'll still see, this film that Whedon made for me!"

    Got a few chuckles from me.  

  13. Carl Norum said...

    Hey, Beavis and Butthead are pretty funny. They're such total little consumer robots... and they sing Iron Man. A lot.  

  14. cenobyte said...

    I have no desire to watch the movie, and not only because I've never heard of it, although that *does* rank it in the top three reasons why I probably wouldn't have ever watched it anyway even if I hadn't read this bit on the journal. Erm. Right.

    Granted, I haven't seen it, and so don't know the reference/background surrounding the lines you quoted, but I'm with Sky on the opinion that they don't *sound* particularly amusing. They actually sound like lines that someone-who-shall-remain-unnamed who has a VERY LOUD INSIDE VOICE would insist are very good lines from a car chase movie with three lines in total, including, but not limited to, "that's a kickass ride, baby".

    I find movies fall into any number of categories:
    Excellent! I'm going to buy it!
    Pretty good; I don't mind having paid $10 and spending 2 hours watching it.
    I'm glad I rented this and didn't spend $10 on it.
    I can't believe I wasted the money AND the time to watch it.

    And, finally,

    I'm sorry, I can't take it anymore. This movie has passed the point at which there is absolutely nothing it could do to itself to redeem itself. I'm leaving the room.

    You don't have to judge the flick on literary merit, dramatic rhetoric, or even spectacular special effects.

    Maybe it comes from my video store days. There are only so many ways you can tell people "No really, Waterworld is a REALLY TERRIBLE MOVIE. Watch this Don Cherry documentary instead" before you just give up.  


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