Napoleón Dinamita


Vote for Pedro!

I love the movie Napoleon Dynamite with Jon Heder so much that I’ve seen it at least twenty times. I saw it the first time because my oldest son want me to rent it from Blockbuster. I thought I would end up seeing it all by myself as when I’ve rented other movies for him that he really, really wanted to see, like the Lords of Dogtown–and I ended up watching it alone, which I really loved by the way!

Anyway, I knew I had to own Napoleon Dynamite on DVD! When it first came out on DVD, it was only available at a clothing store called Hot Topic. Once I bought it, my twins started watching it repeatedly because they loved the movie, too. Well, I couldn’t walk by the TV without stopping to watch Napoleon and his misadventures. So I watched it repeatedly along with my sons. Once we watched the movie all the way to the end and I told my sons not to start it over until I had read the credits; I don’t why, but I like to read the credits to see who the keygrip is. (This goes back to the days of my youth when my friends Jim, Vito, and I would go to show and sit through all the credits so we could applaud for the keygrip.) So, after the credits were completely over–yes, I read them all–there was another scene in which Kip marries La Fawnduh! My sons and I were pleasantly surprised!

Of course, this made me wonder what other surprises were in store for us on the rest of the DVD. Surprise, surprise! Not only does the DVD have subtitles in Spanish and French, but the movie is also dubbed in Spanish! I started watching it with Napoleon speaking Spanish, but my non-Spanish-speaking-Mexican sons wouldn’t watch it in Spanish!

Anyway, sometimes the topic of the movie Napoleon Dynamite comes up in Spanish class because the new student Pedro at Napoleon’s high school is Mexican. I often tell my students that they should watch the movie in Spanish some day. I was planning on watching it all the way through in Spanish one day. Since I’m always open to suggestions in Spanish class, last week, a student recommended that we Napoleon Dynamite in Spanish. I agreed as long as we didn’t use the subtitles. They resisted, but I insisted. Then, we reached a compromise: We would watch the movie dubbed in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. Since the students were fourth semester Spanish students and most had already seen the movie, I knew they would understand the action and plot development of the movie. I was amazed at how much the students laughed!

Napoleon Dynamite is actually much funnier in Spanish, especially when Napoleon says, “¡Idiota!” I was wondering how they would translate words like “liger,” which is half-lion, half-tiger. Well, Napoleon says that he’s drawing his favorite animal, “el legre,” which is “medio león, medio tigre.” However, lost in the translation is, “But lips hurt really bad!”, which is translated as, “Pero mis labios están resecos” and Pedro’s “Maybe I’ll build her a cake or something.” The Spanish used is standard Spanish and doesn’t really capture the slangy colloquialisms of high school teenagers.

Also, the subtitles don’t always match the Spanish dubbing. In the beginning Napoleon says, “¡Rayos!”, but in the subtitles, we read, “¡Cielos!” Obviously, there were two translators at work. Overall, the Spanish captures the feel of the original movie. I would recommend for all Spanish teacher to watch this movie with their high school or college students in Spanish. It was definitely a very entertaining way to reinforce some of the Spanish lessons learned in class.

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David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.

I write about whatever comes to mind. También enseño español y escribo acerca de los mexicanos y la enseñanza del español.

2 thoughts on “Napoleón Dinamita

  1. Wow! I wrote this post almost 12 years ago! And someone finally responded! I used to have the DVD and it had subtitles in English and Spanish. It was also dubbed in Spanish. I think that my son took it to a friend’s house and we never saw it again.

    I looked it up on Amazon.com. It seems to be the same version I had before. Here is the link:

    Well, I just bought it again. If you can wait, I’ll let you know if it’s dubbed in Spanish.

    Thanks for reading my blog!

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