All the schools I attended had somebody like Napoleon: nerdy for certain, often weirdly hostile, but pretty nice if you managed to get to know them. If you ever wondered what it'd be like to be that guy (or girl), Napoleon Dynamite will show you. It will also make you wince, laugh, clap, and maybe even dance for happiness.
Napoleon's home life is odd: he and his 32-year-old brother Kip live in the Middle of Nowhere, Idaho, with their grandmother and her llama, Tina. Kip stays home "chatting online with babes all day" while Napoleon starts another grueling school year, teased by jocks and bullies, and bossed around by Grandma. But this time he makes two new friends, glamor shot photographer Deb and Mexican transplant Pedro Sanchez. At last, his life starts to change for the better--even after Grandma gets in an accident and creepy Uncle Rico comes to stay while she recovers.
Most people will either love or hate this movie. The dialogue is stilted (for effect, it seems), the humor is subtle, and Napoleon's actions are often puzzling. As with his real-life counterparts, he can be hard to figure out. Yet he's always true to himself, sometimes with bad results. But more often they're good, and by the end of the movie, you understand what he's all about.
The best part of the storytelling, for me anyway, was how the events of the movie just unfold, without judgment or explanation. The director, in other words, doesn't try to tell us what to think--and that's what makes Napoleon Dynamite refreshingly, wonderfully different from pretty much any other teen movie you've ever seen. The neutral perspective may be what caused many critics, including the late Roger Ebert, to pan the film. I guess that's understandable for people who are more used to codified teen films like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, where Ferris's perspective dominates so much that he even tells the audience when to go home.
But if you have even a little weirdo in your personality--and unless you're Summer Wheatley, you do--you might like Napoleon. I sure did. Here's hoping that this style of storytelling will continue to grow in popularity and produce more classic movies.