Film Reviews

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE

By • Aug 27th, 2004 •

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Running time — 86 minutes / No MPAA rating

QUOTE: Audiences love this movie. So do I.

I saw ND twice. Once at CineVegas (where both screenings were sold-out) and last night at a packed promotional screening. Audiences love this movie. So do I. Made for a reported $400,000, ND is going to be a huge money-maker.

High schooler Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) lives in Idaho with his fed-up grandmother and 32-year old brother Kip (Aaron Ruell). When his grandmother falls off her dune buggy and lands in the hospital, his Uncle Rico (Jon Greis) comes to babysit. Napoleon, who doesn’t look at people when they talk to him, keeps his eyes closed most of the time, and speaks in one-word sentences, is miserable at school. He gets beat up a lot. He also lives in a fantasy world where he has martial arts skills. Napoleon has fuzzy red hair, is tall, gawky, and wears big glasses.

Oh yeah, and his bottom lip hangs open. P. Diddy and Chelsea Clinton also have the “hanging lower lip” thing going. It’s not a sophisticated look no matter how many diamond necklaces one wears. Napoleon’s brother Kip spends hours online in chat rooms. He is having a “relationship” with a woman named LaFonda. He is slight of build, has thin hair, a weak moustache, and wears glasses.

We have all known young men like Napoleon and Kip. They know they are out of sync but can’t do a thing about it. I once knew a kid who was worse off then Napoleon: Home-schooled, he went to folk dancing camps with his parents and called them by their first names. A sweet teenager, he would always stand inappropriately too close to people. He also had really bad hair and wore glasses. He and his parents had a secret language.

Uncle Rico is a door-to-door salesman (with a bad wig) who groans about what could have happened to him in 1982, his best year. Dismissive of Napoleon, Uncle Rico enlists Kip to help him sell plastic containers. Uncle Rico’s door-to-door sales brings him in contact with Napoleon’s classmates. He is further ruining Napoleon’s life.

Napoleon befriends a brand-new misfit, Pedro (Efren Ramirez), fresh from Mexico. Pedro is not crushed by the social limitations of Idaho high school. He decides to ask out the most popular girl in school, Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff) as well as a shy girl Napoleon likes, Deb (Tina Majorino). He also decides to run against Summer for class president. If Pedro wins, Napoleon wants to be his secret service bodyguard.

The casting is terrific with all the actors committed to their characters. What makes this film so charming is everything is true to the story: The clothes, the dialogue, and the frustration of the characters. I was totally behind Napoleon, Kip, Uncle Rico and Pedro. In fact, Pedro’s self-confidence was uplifting. I never laughed at any of them, just laughed at how strong each character was under such crushing obstacles as social graces, attractiveness, and the need to have “skills.”


Cast:
Napoleon Dynamite: Jon Heder
Uncle Rico: Jon Gries
Kip: Aaron Ruell
Pedro: Efren Ramirez
Deb: Tino Majorino
Rex: Diedrich Bader
Summer Wheatley: Halie Duff

Credits:
Director: Jared Hess
Writers: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess
Producers: Jeremy Coon, Sean C. Covel, Chris Wyatt
Executive producer: Jeremy Coon, Jory Weitz
Director of photography: Munn Powell
Production designer: Cory Lorenzen
Music: John Swihart
Costume designer: Jerusha Hess
Editor: Jeremy Coon

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