Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring:||Jon Heder … Napoleon Dynamite
Jon Gries (Uncle Rico), Aaron Ruell (Kip), Efren Ramirez (Pedro), Diedrich Bader (Rex), Tina Majorino (Deb), Sandy Martin (Grandma), Haylie Duff (Summer Wheatly), Trevor Snarr (Don), Shondrella Avery (Lafawnduh), Bracken Johnson (Randy), Carmen Brady (Starla), Ellen Dubin (Ilene), J.C. Cunningham (Jock #1), James Stevens (Jock #2—as James Smooth), Brian Petersen (Lance), Brett Taylor (Nathan), Tom Lefler (Principal Svadean), Elizabeth Miklavcic (Renae), Scott Thomas (Sheldon), See all »
|Producer:||Fox Searchlight Pictures, Paramount Pictures, MTV Films, Access Films, Jeremy Coon, Sean Covel, Frederick Wedler, Jory Weitz, Chris Wyatt|
|Distributor:||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
“He’s out to prove he’s got nothing to prove.”
Expecting a film about the nineteenth century French emperor? If so, the movie could entail a fabricated story about how the fascist leader tried unsuccessfully to invent explosives. But the title of that flick would be “Napoleon Blownapart.” No, Napoleon Dynamite is a totally new, modern character, and as authentic and uniquely drawn as the film that is named after him. In this forum, you’ll be infused with independent cinema and explode with laughter.
Perhaps adhering to the idea that it’s “chic to be geek,” newbe director, Jared Hess, has spared no expense in celebrating his anti-hero, Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), a completely socially inept high school student in a small Idahoan town. Napoleon lives with his gruff, four-wheeling grandmother (Sandy Martin) and his thirty-two year old effeminate brother, Kip (Aaron Ruell), and is the epitome of the passé idea of “nerd.” Centered around typical teenage issues involving high school dances, student government elections and frustrated adolescent love, the uncomplicated plot is clearly a platform to highlight the quirkoholic character Napoleon.
As conventional as some of the story choices are, they work, and the film is so well built with other refreshingly original choices that it’s nothing to scoff at. Beyond his name, Napoleon amuses us with his usual abrasive tone and fantastic stories. In the locker room, the jocks pick on him and ask what he did last summer. He irritatingly replies, “I told you, I was hunting wolverines with my uncle in Alaska!” Also entertaining is Kip’s relationship with his Internet girlfriend, LaFawnduh (Shondrella Avery), and Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), who comes to be guardian over Kip and Napoleon while their grandma is away. And their karate lesson at the local dojo gives us more to laugh at.
As raw as this film is, the cleanliness is quite incomparable to most contemporary comedies. At no point was any cuss word detected. The closest it comes is when Napoleon is frustrated and adds in a “freakin’” or “flippin’” to what he says. The most offensive thing might be a business Uncle Rico starts later, working with breast enhancers. It is only mentioned a couple of times and over the course of the film as we have learned to dislike Uncle Rico, our distaste for him is associated with this business. This film does not try to be anything other than it is: a newfangled, straightforward comedy to incite honest laughter.
With blatant attempts to make us laugh, there are a few moments where we hit our head on the ceiling of the humor. Still, the reason we can find Napoleon so amusing is because, to some degree, we might identify with being the outcast or with the awkward adolescent era of our lives. Underneath all of the mockery, we can have sympathy for people like Napoleon struggling to find acceptance and their place in this world. Where Gus van Saint’s “Elephant” might be a depiction of the tragedy of high school misfits, “Napoleon Dynamite” is the comedy. And the ending is capped off with a euphoric experience that leaves you uplifted.
Violence: None / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “From Preston, Idaho comes Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), a new kind of hero complete with a tight red ’fro, some sweet moon boots, and skills that can’t be topped. Napoleon lives with his Grandma (Sandy Martin) and his 30-year-old, unemployed brother Kip (Aaron Ruell), who spends his days looking for love in Internet chat rooms. When Grandma hits the road on her quad runner, Napoleon and Kip’s meddling Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) comes to town to stay with them and ruin their lives.
Napoleon is left to his own devices to impress the chicks at school and help his new best friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) win the election for Student Body President against the stuck-up Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff); all the while making sure to feed Grandma’s pet llama Tina, and avoiding association with Uncle Rico and the herbal breast enhancers he sells door to door. Napoleon and Pedro put their skills and knowledge of piñatas, cows and drawing to good use, but it is a surprise talent that leads the two to triumph in the end.”
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.