Simon Moore reviews the fourth episode of the Napoleon Dynamite animated series…
The Daily Planet had Lois Lane. Channel 6 News had April O’Neil. Now the Preston Bugle (Blowing Since 1998) has Deb Bradshaw. You know, that girl who wears home-made clothes and hangs around with the gangly one and the only kid in school with a full-grown moustache. She is absolutely ready for exciting journalistic adventures, with her surly sidekick ‘Scoop’ Dynamite. If only she didn’t live in Preston.
Faced with the closure of the paper, Deb has 24 hours to save it with a knockout front page story. Once again, this is Preston. Either she talks to that girl who went to Israel once and won’t shut up about it, or do an exposé on Uncle Rico. Bless him, he is trying to help: “I have worn the same pair of pants for five years…would your readers care about that?”
Ignoring Napoleon’s suggestion to hunt the Mine Shaft Monster, Deb settles on a profile piece about her good friend Pedro, the Student Body President. Sadly, even following him around all day doesn’t seem to work. The most exciting quote all day is a sincere discussion on the question of whether it would better to wrestle a bear or karate fight a moose. Efren Ramirez really must get his dues here, as Pedro considers the products of Napoleon’s overactive imagination so soberly and carefully, you’d think this was a Newsnight debate.
Stumped for a story, Deb gets desperate. An innocent comment from Pedro is blown out of proportion, all the way up to broadsheet size. The next day, everyone wants a copy of the Bugle. Pourquoi, you ask? The front page is decrying poor Pedro for calling Preston ‘the most boring city in America’, that’s pourquoi. Now Mr President can’t go anywhere without being pelted or stoned or heckled by the proud citizens of Preston. Rex of Rex Kwon Do finds a comfortable niche here, leading the angry mob. Even Napoleon’s signature Jamiroquai dance routine can’t save his friend this time. Although, as Pedro comments, “Frankly, I’m surprised it worked the first time.”
Relations between Pedro and Deb quickly strain to breaking point. Deb stands by journalistic integrity. Pedro accuses her of shoddy friendshippery. Unable to agree with both friends, Napoleon refuses to choose sides. Now he must find a way to reunite them, so he doesn’t have to keep sitting alone. He hates sitting alone. Cue one well-worn ‘Alone Again Naturally’ montage, featuring the likes of three-seat tandem bicycles, screenings of The Three Amigos and an infuriating game of chess.
Not terribly original, but the next scene more than makes up for it, as Napoleon tries to console himself by imagining Grandma Carlinda and Uncle Rico as Pedro and Deb. The results are equal parts creepy and comical, especially Rico sporting Deb’s girlish ponytail. It’s too much for our boy. Now it’s on. He is going to find that Mine Shaft Monster he’s been name-dropping the entire episode. A picture of the local bigfoot-type monster is certain to knock his bud off the front page and give him some peace.
Several monster costumes and a somewhat underplayed Kip Wants A Gun subplot later, the collected friends and family of Napoleon are faced with a very real Dave the Ghost. He’d normally be harmless, but Uncle Rico owes him money. Kip asserts himself with Grandma Carlinda’s poorly hidden firearm, but to no avail. It sets up some classic Dynamite brothers dialogue though:
“Bullets can’t harm it.”
“Then what can?”
“Charmed weaponry. Gosh, read a book.”
All is soon resolved, and the three amigos ride once again. On the tandem bike. It’s quite refreshing to see Pedro vs. Deb assert itself not with sheer spectacle and forced surreality – it’d feel too much like trying to top Ligertown. This week’s episode succeeded on the unique strengths and quirks of Napoleon’s only true friends, as portrayed by the ever-so-adept Tina Majorino and Efren Ramirez.
In trying to keep Pedro and Deb from avoiding each other, Napoleon blurts: “It took me 16 years of putting up with idiots to find two friends I could stand!” It’s a typical Napoleon line; oblivious, adamantly truthful, and a testament to people who not only put up with him on a daily basis, but are actually very fond of him. Is it really so strange that we’re starting to count ourselves in that category?
Next week: Bed Races. How far will Uncle Rico and Napoleon go to beat six-time Annual Bed Race champion Grandma Carlinda? And is having a race car shaped bed any help at all? These questions and more to be answered in next week’s review. Same bat-time, same incorrect TV show slogan.
Read Simon’s exclusive interview with Napoleon Dynamite co-developer, writer and producer Mike Scully here.
Simon Moore is a budding screenwriter, passionate about films both current and classic. He has a strong comedy leaning with an inexplicable affection for 80s montages and movies that you can’t quite work out on the first viewing.