I have written before about the negative effect watching a film that has a lot of hype around it, sometimes being called a “classic,” can actually have. The first time I saw Napoleon Dynamite, I’d heard so much about it and how brilliant it was that I went into it with huge expectations. I was disappointed. I just didn’t get it. People said it was hilarious and I had only really found one scene funny (the scene with the cow and the school bus is amazing!)
I read through my tv mag recently and saw that a new Napoleon Dynamite cartoon was starting. Then, as if by coincidence (yeah…right) they were showing the film that week too. I decided to take my opportunity and give it another go, maybe unlocking some new found love for the film and then, hopefully, the cartoon as well. Taking that break from the film, letting myself forget it, worked!
That doesn’t mean that I loved it on the second viewing. There were still moments that went straight over my head and I still think that it is overrated but I do appreciate why it’s a cult classic. For starters, Napoleon Dynamite is a great creation. A character that doesn’t care about the views or opinions of anyone else, is completely oblivious to how the world actually works and then goes out of his way to help his friend at the end of film. He has some great lines, great moments and interacts with the other characters brilliantly too.
Those other characters are hit and miss but most have a watchable quirk that keeps you interested. Hearing Kip talk about his girlfriend/chatroom problems in his weirdly high voice is hilarious and the whole scene with Rex-Kwon-Do is brilliant too. Some characters only get one or two scenes to make their impact and this itself can be hit and miss. There were times when I was chuckling to myself and then immediately afterwards, utterly confused. I think that’s why I don’t enjoy the film as much as other people, there are really cool characters and moments but it can also be so random that I just don’t get it.
At the end of the film, I did have a new found respect and understanding as to why Napoleon Dynamite is so loved and has cult status. It’s quirky, can be hilarious and seems to have that strange, random quality that some people love. Napoleon himself is great character and the idea of a cartoon that continues the adventures of this town seems like a great idea. After watching two episodes though, the cartoon seems hit and miss too. It can’t seem to work out whether it wants to be realistic like King of the Hill or random and fantastical in places, like aspects of The Simpsons.
This is a shame because part of the charm of the film is the fact that, even though it can be random and can be very weird, it’s realistic. At no time do you think “that person wouldn’t do that.” I could imagine that people like Napoleon and his family actually exist and to watch them play out their lives and their strange quirks, is actually what makes this film so unique. To make that even more random in the cartoon begins to lose the essence of what makes the film effective.
Overall, even though I still think it’s overrated and nowhere near as hilarious and amazing as people make out, I actually think a lot more of it on a second viewing than I remember doing the first time I watched it. It is a shame that they haven’t been able to keep the same type of story going with the cartoon because these characters and their lives do have a lot more of great material in them.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)