It's hard to believe that ten years have passed since the release of the quirky cult classic that is Napoleon Dynamite*. It was a film like no other, never truly certain of what decade it was set in and always shifting between the nostalgic and the larger than life. Grossing over $46 Million on a production budget of just $400,000, this humble beast gave indie filmmakers from around the world the swift nunchuk strike to the kidneys it needed.
However, its wild success was followed by a wave of near carbon copies, all featuring the same style, but lacking the signature "substance." Awkward yet endearing, pseudo-intellectual rom-com nuggets like Juno, Eagle Vs Shark, Away We Go, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Youth In Revolt, pretty much any movie that Michael Cera has ever been in except for Superbad, have been nearly inescapable ever since. I guess somewhere along the line, producers decided to get their shit together and tap into the self-prescribed "cute introverts" and the "less attractive Zooey Deschenel wannabes" of the world.
Their Fool-Proof Quirky Indy Film Formula Went Something Like This: Hand-Drawn Block-Letter Title Sequence + Wide Shot of Character(s) walking across the screen + Obscure Indie Song w/ Ukulele + Ridiculous Vintage Furniture/Wallpaper + Love Interests Lying On Their Backs/Looking At Stars/Not Hooking Up + Sweatbands = New Fake Tits For The Executive Producer's Mistress.
Sure, it was a pretty shallow move, but that's never stopped Hollywood before. As long as the head bitches in charge of production were rolling in Scrooge McDuck money when the dust cleared, they didn't give a shit.
There were the few exceptions to the rule however. There were the Little Miss Sunshines that adopted the aesthetics of Napoleon Dynamite, but added something new, namely coked up Alan Arkin grandpas. In this respect, the archetype served its purpose in progressing film as a medium stylistically. Napoleon Dynamite was so important to the last decade because it revitalized a confidence in experimentation that had been absent since the early '90s.
Although, maybe the film isn't a work of genius after all. Like, I think Jon Heder was pretty much just playing himself. Maybe the director, Jared Hess, just followed him around with a camera and was like, "What are you gonna do today, Jon?" And he was just like, "Whatever I feel like, GOSH!" Like, straight up no acting at all. Just a legit documentary. Although, on a serious note, I think Jon Heder might be dead. Somebody really needs to check on him because I don't think he's been in a single movie since Blades of Glory. He's like the puppy you forgot to feed while you were on a two week vacation. Next, my dad's gonna be telling me how they took Jon Heder to a nice farm upstate, where he has lots of open fields to run in.
*The name "Napoleon Dynamite" is not to be confused with the Elvis Costello alter ego of the same name. For all of you out there who were looking forward to a 750 word article about "Oliver’s Army," and found this instead, I can only offer you my most sincerest apologies. You could try searching elsewhere, or you could just kill yourself because Elvis Costello music is lame as fuck.
Matt Rimer is a writer living in Boston. Follow him on Twitter here.