I don't consider myself an art-house snob. Nor do I consider myself to be a person who only likes mainstream movies. I am a film lover. Good, bad, and ugly. I love cheesy 80's movies, blow up action 90's flicks, and high concept 21st century movies. Napoleon Dynamite tries hard, and I think that's what I disliked most about it. The opening titles are cute. And the long shots and the forced awkwardness moments...cute. But after awhile, that's all it amounts to. The direction is CONSTANTLY calling attention to itself.
I'm amazed to hear people call this a character driven piece when the director's hand is so evident in every single frame of the movie. However, there is another hand prevalent as well and that is the lead actor. Now, I understand a lot of people have fallen in love with this character he's created. And I will admit to loving some goofy characters in my time, and laughing at anything they do, but I found Napoleon to be lacking what most of them don't.
Napoleon is a mean spirited, angry, hurtful, and disturbed individual. I can relate that people find solace in certain things he does in remembering their own foibles of high school life. But all he does is moan, and complain, and us the same delivery for every GAWD single GAWD line. I don't know about you, but the nerds I knew in high school, and the times I felt like an outcast, I at least had a couple of different deliveries or expressions. I just find the character so unlikeable. And those who call him a hero for anyone who's ever felt like an outcast. What movie were you watching? He doesn't undergo any CHANGE. He just continues to droop his eyes, bitch at people, complain, and act like a moron. Oh, he plays tether ball with the girl. That isn't a change in HIM. She just agrees to play. He has no redeeming quality to make him a hero. god knows I wanted to be an individual, but I'd never wish him on myself...and what's with the time period.
80's all over it, right? But, this isn't the 80's flick everyone makes it out to be. I thought that way too, at first. Then I paid attention. Uncle Rico wants to go BACK in time to 1982. The car is busting hydraulics. I would peg this movie to take place in the 90's somewhere. So why am I to draw 80's nostalgia? because the director has preened it all over the screen.
The film uses set ups, cheap laughs, and over directed camera composition and movement to cover up the fact that it can't decide on a tone, mood, setting, or make any decision at all. The movie is one long failed Mad TV skit, yet even those movies make SOME attempt at a plot and cohesiveness. I have to give this one, a D+