We introduced our daughters to “Napoleon Dynamite” in all its dorky, gawky, quotable glory over the weekend. Trust me, if you haven’t worked “Your mom goes to college” or “Gimme some of your tots” into a conversation lately, you’re missing out.
But it’s more than just an entertaining flick. While it’s mostly about an awkward Idaho outsider finding his own path through school and his dysfunctional family, it also reveals some basic lessons about teamwork.
At first, it seems like interacting with other people might be the last thing Napoleon wants, or is capable of. He immediately makes it pretty clear what a lone wolf (or maybe a lone liger) he is, declaring his independence with his first line in the flick: A kid on the school bus asks him what he’s going to do today, and Napoleon frustratedly responds, “Whatever I feel like I want to do. GOSH!”
Napoleon is a living, mouth-breathing example of the importance of being yourself and dancing to the beat of your own drum. Or in Napoleon’s case, dancing to some sort of not-yet-invented weird thing that only slightly resembles a percussion instrument.
But as the movie unfurls and Napoleon starts to interact with his classmates and family, some simple teamwork lessons emerge, that – GOSH! – even businesses can take to heart. Here are three of the flippin’ sweetest:
Connect. Napoleon starts to shift ever-so-slightly away from his solo approach when he makes two friends: Pedro and Deb. Improbably, his weirdo brother Kip and his surprisingly not-fake online girlfriend LaFawnduh hit it off. Even sleazy Uncle Rico teams up with Kip to sell a Tupperware knock-off. They’re awkward connections, but connections nonetheless, and lay the groundwork for some good old-fashioned teamwork.
Contribute. Pedro’s campaign for class president offered everybody an opportunity to add something to the mix. Deb supplied the campaign-swag keychains and Pedro’s stylish wig. Napoleon drew the campaign posters. LaFawnduh provided the music for Napoleon to dance to and win over the student body. Even Pedro’s cousins lent a hand, supporting the candidate’s campaign promise to protect the littler students from bullies. (“Pedro offers you his protection.”)
Collaborate. The biggest lesson in teamwork comes from the movie itself. With a microscopic budget of $400,000, everybody pitched in – by necessity. John Heder wove prop keychains between scenes and drew almost all of Napoleon’s works of art. The producer also edited the movie – in his apartment on a Mac. Lack of resources doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of results: The movie earned $45 million in the U. S. alone.
By the time Pedro wins the presidency, Napoleon and Deb play tetherball, and the credits roll, there’s no question that when these individuals worked together, they built something that’s greater than the sum of its weird parts.
A movie that delivers both endurable catchphrases and actionable tips on teamwork? Lucky!