Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite is a “revenge of the nerds” movie that tries to have it both ways.
The main character is an oddball loner in a small-town, Idaho highschool. He wears weird clothes, draws fantasy/sci-fi sketches, plays tether volleyball by himself, stuffs leftover lunch tater tots in his cargo pants, and is tortured by the school jocks and mocked by the popular girls. When the camera visits his house, where his unemployed 30-year old older brother spends hours in pre-internet chatrooms and his uncle yearns to relive his days of almost-highschool-football stardom, you know there’s no way out.
The film spends most of its meandering plot inviting the audience to at Napoleon, his loser family, his awkward, fresh-from Mexico friend Pedro, and the unprosperous, uncool ambience of small-town Idaho.
Then, toward the end, the movie evolves into a “follow your dreams” fairy tale. The ideosyncratic loners find each other, and become school heroes.
The audience gets to make fun of the nerds and small-town losers through most of the movie, and then bask in the myth of individualist triumph at the end.
In the genre of misfit triumph, I preferred Muriel’s Wedding — which was simultaneously sweeter and darker. The film shows the awkwardness of the misfit main character and her disfunctional family all the way through, and the triumph is partial, since the main character has internalized the values of her oppressors.

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