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Napoleon Dynamite and "The Promise"

By Edited Jun 12, 2015 0 0

A detailed review of Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite is a low-budget independent film that is unique and highly character driven. It’s a movie that doesn’t rely much on a plot to tell its story and message, but more on the characters and actions. However, the message and moral that the movie drives home is wonderful, and the way that it drives it is extremely creative, unique, and funny. The opening credit sequence is very entertaining and creative in itself, as it has various food dishes where the food is laid out to spell names and titles. This opening sequence prepares the viewer for a light-hearted movie to come. We know from this sequence that the movie to follow will be quirky, humorous, and creative just from watching the opening credits, or at least that’s how the viewer will feel when watching them.


There isn’t much of a plot throughout the movie, except for the last half where Napoleon and Deb help Pedro win the class presidency. The movie is put together with scenes that tell more about the characters and help to develop the characters, without actually putting them into a storyline plot. In a sense, the lack of a complete storyline plot is a statement that helps to develop the movies setting and characters even more. The movie takes place in Preston, Idaho, a rural small town where life goes by in a much slower pace. The viewer can tell that there is not that much excitement going on in this town and with the absence of a direct plot, the viewer can actually “feel” this environment. The movie does make sense and comes together in the final scene, and the song played during this scene literally sums up the message of this movie and the Character of Napoleon Dynamite. To analyze this film, I will start with the end, and use this song, in order to put the movie in perspective.
    The song played during the final scene is “The Promise” by the group When in Rome. The lyrics to the song can literally explain the character of Napoleon. The lyrics are as follows:

If you need a friend,

don't look to a stranger,

You know in the end,

I'll always be there.

 

And when you're in doubt,

and when you're in danger,

Take a look all around,

and I'll be there.

 

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say. (I promise)

I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be. (I promise)

But if you'll wait around a while, I'll make you fall for me,

I promise, I promise you I will.

 

When your day is through,

and so is your temper,

You know what to do,

I'm gonna always be there.

 

Sometimes if I shout,

it's not what's intended.

These words just come out,

with no gripe to bear.

 

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say. (I promise)

I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be. (I promise)

But if you'll wait around a while, I'll make you fall for me,

I promise, I promise you...

 

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say. (I promise)

I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be. (I promise)

And if I had to walk the world, I'd make you fall for me,

I promise, I promise you I will.



Even though there is no particular plot or storyline in the movie, there is still continuity in the film. This is where the movie shines in it’s creativity in sending a message. When Napoleon and Kip go to the “Rex Kwon Do” dojo, Rex tells the people that: “At Rex Kwan Do, we use the buddy system. No more flying solo. You need somebody watching your back at all times.” A few scenes later, Napoleon and his new friend Pedro are sitting in the bleachers at school and Napoleon asks Pedro: “So, we're pretty much friends by now, right?” Pedro answers with his simple and unemotional “Yes.” Napoleon replies with: “So, you got my back and everything, right?” Pedro, who is clueless as this remark goes over his head, says: “What?” Napoleon answers: “Nevermind.” This scene not only gives us an insight to the characters, but is prophetic. The insight is that Napoleon desires a friendship where he and his friend will always look out for each other, in other words, a strong and true friendship. This shows that Napoleon may not be as dumb as we think, as Pedro wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about. This dialog is prophetic because in the end, Napoleon turns out to be this kind of friend for Pedro, by putting himself on the line to be ridiculed in performing an impromptu dance skit after Pedro’s speech, a skit that they were unaware had to be done. This makes Napoleon a hero, and in essence, a true friend. Compare this with the first verse of “The Promise”:

If you need a friend,

don't look to a stranger,

You know in the end,

I'll always be there

And when you're in doubt,

and when you're in danger,

Take a look all around,

and I'll be there”



When Pedro was in doubt about winning and making his speech after finding out they needed to perform a skit, Napoleon was there for him to give him courage in another line that shows us the character of Napoleon: “Just follow your heart, that’s what I always do.” Napoleon is also the friend that is there to save Pedro by performing a skit for him; Napoleon, ironically, “had Pedro’s back” in the end.
    The chorus of “The promise” is another great insight into Napoleon, and is easy to see when thinking of all the great lines that Napoleon gives us throughout the movie. The lyrics are:   

I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say. (I promise)

I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be. (I promise)

But if you'll wait around a while, I'll make you fall for me,

I promise, I promise you I will.



Napoleon is portrayed as a “nerd” or “geek” along with all the stereotypes that go along with those labels, including the vernacular that he uses in his speech. However, the writers did not just make Napoleon’s vocabulary a bunch of nonsense words to provoke laughter and follow stereotype, but used the character and the stereotypical language to show how a human being is trying to express himself. A good point of this is when Napoleon goes to talk with Deb in the lunchroom. He looks at the 1% milk she is drinking and says to her “I see you're drinking 1%. Is that 'cause you think you're fat? 'Cause you're not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.” Any “normal” person would use common sense and not say this to a girl you have a crush on. That’s what makes it funny. This is Napoleon’s version of a compliment. He is “thinking of the right words to say,” but “they don’t sound the way he planned them to be…” If she waits a while, will she fall for him? Napoleon has his own vocabulary throughout the movie, but he is really trying to express himself, and he is trying to express that he wants to be a good friend (and have good friends), and he wants to express his feelings for Deb. It’s difficult for him to do this, but he feels it (his feelings for Deb), and shows it (his heroic dance for Pedro). If we add in the first part of the 2nd verse of “The Promise” (“When your day is through, and so is your temper, You know what to do, I'm gonna always be there”) we can put in perspective that final scene when Napoleon is playing solo Tetherball and Deb walks up to him. Deb was previously angry at him because Uncle Rico told her that Napoleon wanted her to take the breast-enhancement supplements Rico was pushing. We can see that Deb also has a crush on Napoleon and she wants to forgive him. Her “day is through” and “so is her temper” so she goes to see Napoleon where he is always playing by himself. He once again says a line that doesn’t sound the way intended, but in his mind is a way to make up with her: “I caught you a delicious bass.” Deb smiles and accepts his offer to “play him” at Tetherball. She, somehow, understands exactly what he is trying to say.    
 

The second part of verse 2 (Sometimes if I shout, it's not what's intended. These words just come out, with no gripe to bear) represents how Napoleon blurts out his comments or gripes (“idiot, gosh, flippin, etc) but doesn’t really hold a grudge against those who insult him, though Uncle Rico does get to him (and I don’t blame him). That is a great part about Napoleon’s character; he doesn’t want revenge and he doesn’t seek it. He overlooks the insults and goes on “following his heart.”
   
Napolean Dynamite is a great movie that has me questioning myself why I like it so much. If you are expecting a classic narrative where the plot and message is laid out for, you may not understand this movie; however, if you give it a chance, you can see its brilliance. The sunshine and beautiful scenery can’t help but make you feel good. The final scene with Napolean and Deb is truly precious, along with great music and a picturesque background; however the characters’ uniqueness makes it original and fresh from other movies. Honestly, who tries to make up with a girl by telling her “I caught you a delicious bass?” Yet we know, and Deb knew, that this was Napolean’s way of making up to her and showing his feelings for her. Naploleon doesn’t change his ways, and he seems content with how he is, undeterred by any insults, and even willing to bear them to help a friend. That is character and a friend we would all love to have. This movie tells us that we should look deeper into people and that we may find these types of friends where we least expect them. Truly, an ingenious film!

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