Napoleon Is A Sketch That Overstays Its Welcome

Napoleon still of Napoleon (Joaquin Phoenix) with his hands over his ears.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as the infamous, short tyrant. Played with a mediocre dullness with bouts of temper tantrums, it’s a prolonged film that doesn’t deserve the length. Despite its famed director and star leading the charge, Napoleon feels more slapstick and befitting an under two-hour runtime. Instead, the film deluges audiences with an unnecessary tale of an unnecessary ruler. Performances and direction do not justify the runtime of a film like Napoleon, which depicts the same kinds of stories from the usual lens. 

Written by David Scarpa and directed by Ridley Scott, the movie charts the rise and fall of Napoleon. Joaquin plays the character seriously and quirky, but connecting with him is challenging. In the entire film, there’s little audiences learn about Napoleon. Rather than feeling like a person, it’s a hollow shell to drive laughs. With a 158-minute runtime, it’s impossible to understand why so many scenes felt essential to the movie when characters remain as flat as they began at the start. 

Napoleon Prolongs a Skit

Napoleon is a sketch comedy that overstays its welcome by at least an hour. Comedic moments stem from his childish nature and obsession with his wife, Josephine (Vanessa Kirby). Yet their relationship does not feel genuine, more like an unspoken contract. Both shine in their respective roles, but the pair has no chemistry. It’s all sizzle and no steak. They are not lovebirds, but their relationship feels hollow on almost all counts despite Joaquin and Vanessa’s performances.

Sniveling and beleaguered, he is Gladiator’s whiny emperor, Commodus’ cosmic twin. Both have delusions of greatness that surpass their actual achievements. Napoleon is no different from every toxic double-standard dudebro.

Music Reminds Audiences of Better Films

Napoleon still of Napoleon (Joaquin Phoenix) with his hands over his ears.
Joaquin Phoenix in Ridley Scott’s Napoleon (2023). Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy

Musical choices and how Joaquin’s character bucks conventional manners made the movie feel like a cross between Pride and Prejudice and The Wolf of Wall Street. But those films each excel where Napoleon stumbles. Because of his portrayal as beating to his own drum and at once beloved and the joke of France, it jars in tone and the lifeless color palette, which leeches out the comedy. 

It’s also as though the audience is missing critical information. People seem afraid of Napoleon. But there’s never a moment where his character cements a reason for this. As such, there are few memorable scenes. While Napoleon’s temper tantrum nature brought laughs on occasion, it didn’t bring down the house. It’s more of “the audacity” rather than genuine laughs. 

Ultimately, aside from runtime, its primary issue is the continued over-saturation of white man stories. Hollywood always tells stories about various white men. To reel in viewers, there needs to be something that sticks to the ribs. But Napoleon starves viewers with bland attempts at humor. Although the direction is arresting, as only Ridley Scott can deliver, it’s not enough to salvage this picture. Had the film shortened its runtime, audiences could fondly look at his idiosyncrasies. Instead, it winds up a blur after the movie ends, and all one remembers is the interminable time spent seated.

1 thought on “Napoleon Is A Sketch That Overstays Its Welcome”

  1. This Article Sucks

    The movie sucks, but what’s even worse is this review. Jesus Christ read a book for once in your life and stop being a victim along side that. Napoleon is an extremely important figure in WORLD history and absolutely deserves a movie. Unfortunately this one was absolutely not it.

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