Napoleon Dynamite Was Robbed
Every year the weeks leading up to film award season are filled with discussion about the current nominees as well as scores of articles about people who’ve been robbed – either losing to an unworthy competitor or by not getting a nod at all. It is so excessive that it seems like the only thing worse than getting snubbed is being the poor jerk who won instead. Nothing like having the honor of winning the greatest award in the world of film sucked away by the annual discussion about how you didn’t deserve it.
That said, I want to add a film to the pile that was so thoroughly robbed that it doesn’t even register on the list of the robbed – Napoleon Dynamite. At the very least it shouldn’t have been elbowed out by Finding Neverland for a spot on the Best Picture Oscar nominee list. Have you ever even seen Finding Neverland? Neither have I – I’m sure it’s a lovely film – but which is more inspiring: the story of the man who wrote the story of a boy will always remain a boy or a boy becoming a man in the face of adversity?
I am not being totally ironic. Hear me out.
Premiering at Sundance and released in the summer of 2004, Napolean Dynamite became a full-on cultural sensation following its released on DVD at the end of the year. It has hardly lacked for attention but it has never been taken seriously, which is a shame because it’s actually a really beautiful picture. Yes, Napoleon is something of a pathological liar and there is no indication that he goes to visit him gramma while she recuperates but he is also an inspiration and definitely a character worth re-examining.
Think about it. There is no reason for this kid to get out of bed in the morning. His life sucks. And he knows it. But he’s also got deep feelings. We see this early on during the Happy Hands performance in the classroom. He has, by far, the most expressive hands in the group. But the true genius of the film is the transformation we see take place in Napoleon after he goes with his brother to a free taekwondo lesson. The “sensei” gives three pieces of advice:
1. Get a sidekick - no more flying solo.
2. Discipline your image.
3. Respect yourself.
Following that, Napoleon makes a point of verbally confirming his friendship with the new kid, Pedro. And what at first doesn’t seem like a really caring relationship grows into a strong bond. The way he put himself out there at the election assembly is mind blowing. I dance/sing/perform in public every opportunity I have but most people won’t. I believe speaking before a large group ranks pretty high on the list of things that people generally fear. Dance solos? Forget it.
Napoleon is also brave for the way he confronts his uncle. Could you imagine yourself standing up to an adult as a child the way he stood up to Uncle Rico?
But what I really love about the film is the beauty of his advice to Pedro concerning his election speech. This is the part of the film which actually caused me to cry a little the first time I saw it and it seems that no one else heard it right.
Napoleon tells Pedro: “Just tell them that... your wildest dreams will come true if they vote for you.”
Pedro misunderstands and later says: “If you vote for me, all of your wildest dreams will come true.”
What Napoleon actually said is more meaningful. It’s absolutely beyond the wildest dreams of a dork like them to win the quintessential high school popularity contest that is the election for student body president. Their place as outsiders is repeatedly established throughout the movie but most poignantly at the dance, a trio of wallflowers on the fringe of the crowd.
If Pedro had followed Napoleon’s advice properly he would have said: “If you vote for me, all of my wildest dreams will come true.”
Fortunately, it doesn’t matter because Napoleon’s sweet moves, courtesy of D-Qwon, save the day.
So now I ask you: Is Napoleon Dynamite not a mother fucking beautiful and inspiring film? I dare you to watch it without crying. Someone - the Hollywood Foreign Press Association or Screen Actors Guild or the Academy - needs to get Uncle Rico’s time machine and make things right.