Napoleon Dynamite - CoverDid you know that some children are born with adult brains? It’s true you know. You can tell this by the way they act. By the way they speak, and by the way they behave too. It's as if they've been on this planet for longer than they’re years. However, a bad example of this would be this film; one Directed by Jared Hess and Starring: Jon Heder and Jon Gries. It was made in 2004 and lasts for 96 minutes.

Napoleon Dynamite

Yep! I'm sorry to say that serious and somewhat awkward-looking simpleton, Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), has a very drab existence.

But why? Does this have anything to do with Napoleon having to take his internet-dating brother, Kip (Aaron Ruell), to a self-defense class? No. Then does this have anything with him befriending a sullen Mexican kid at school called Pedro (Efren Ramirez)? No. OK, so what about his strained encounter involving photographer come craft-expert school-friend, Deborah (Tina Majorino)? No. Well, what about hearing the news that his Grandma has been taken ill, so that now he and his brother have to be tendered to by his entrepreneurial Uncle Rico (Jon Gries)? No – it’s not that – Napoleon's drab existence is because he is a serious and a somewhat awkward-looking simpleton. Plus:

THE MONEY: Surprisingly enough, Uncle Rico manages to goad Kip into helping him sell Tupperware to suburban homemaker’s, until he has a falling out with the manufacturers. Now whilst this is happening, Napoleon to gets a job chasing chickens too, YE-HAW!

THE DANCE: There is a dance going on at high school, and as Pedro has beaten Napoleon to the punch and is taking out Debra, whom does Napoleon ask? Pretty-pretty popular girl, Trisha (Emily Kennard)? Yes. But does she want to go with him? No. Although her mother forces her to go anyway, and have a not so good time together.

THE TIME-MACHINE: Uncle Rico buys a time machine from the internet, and it does not work – damn.

THE INTERNET-DATE: Kip has fallen in love with a girl that he has met on the internet called LaFawnduh (Shonrella Avery). OK, so he is small, skinny, pale, and funny looking. And she is big, talk, black, and has a smiley disposition. Still, it could work. LaFawanduh could ghetto-rise Kip over time.

THE NEXT VENTURE: After his last Tupperware related venture, Uncle Rick's next project is to sell a breast enlargement program to homemakers. Again. Ooop! I am afraid to say that all he accomplishes this time round, is to upset everyone he encounters – including Napoleon and Debra.

THE ELECTION: Popular schoolgirl, Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff), is running for school president. So what is Pedro going to do about it? Correct – the same. And with a bit of help from Debra with a hair enhancement, with a bit of intimidation from his cousins, and with a bit of dancing from Napoleon – he doesn't do too bad either.

THE GIRL: Napoleon and Debra play ball, and life just goes on.

Yep! It is pretty safe to say that we are back onto ‘another one of those films’ territory with 'Napoleon Dynamite'. Well, it is of an acquired taste all in all. It’s not what I would call an action film. It’s not what I would call a melodrama. And it’s not even an out an out comedy either. Instead, it is a way of life presented on screen, both in a new and somewhat mannered way.

Napoleon Dynamite - The Man
You see, deliberately, both the actors and the scenes are displayed in a very stilted fashion - with exposition to a minimum, composition benignly flat, and movement very elaborate. OK, I am sure that you can gather from my words so far, that this is quite an unusual film. Moreover, it is additionally ‘sketch-like’ in quality, with not a singular through-line where the plot is concerned. Fair enough, here and there the ‘sketches’ do intertwine and try to amalgamate the individual parts as a whole. But this does not really work where a larger and more encompassing tale is concerned.

Napoleon Dynamite - The CartoonPlease note, though, this is not necessarily a bad-bad thing, because the characters are consistent and the motives are apparent. It is just that everything else seems a bit off-kilter in the scheme of things. Here, check out these filmic-facts for more information: (1) The name 'Napoleon Dynamite' came from the pseudonym of musician, 'Elvis Costello', which he used in his album 'Blood and Chocolate' made in 1986. (2) This flick was edited in the apartment of the producer, Heremy Coon, on a Macintosh. (3) This movie took 22 days to record. (4) The Napoleon dance sequence was the last scene shot in the film. (5) The actor who played Kip, Aaron Ruell, had braces fitted especially for this role. (6) The opening credit sequence was devised by Pablo Ferro, who also did the credit sequence for 'Dr Strangelove' [click here for review]. (7) At the end of the film, Uncle Rico's girlfriend who rides up to him on her bicycle, is in fact Aaron Ruell's real wife. (8) Jon Heder was paid $1,000 to play Napoleon Dynamite. The movie grossed over $40,000,000 in America alone. (9) Despite playing high-school students, both Jon and Efren were 27 and 31 respectively. (10) The film is based on a short film that Jared Hess made with Jon Heder in 2001. And (11) From 2004 to 2008 a "Napoleon Dynamite" festival is held in the city where the movie was made, Preston, Idaho.

Wedding in Napoleon Dynamite

In many ways 'Napoleon Dynamite' is like watching a live-action cartoon, with the static 'two-shot' of two people talking to each other and just going on about life as normal. Also, I find that this is precisely what is at the heart of the film – life – and how not everyone is a part of the pretty-pretty crowd.

Napoleon Dynamite - The Bros
Well, what I mean by this, is that in a subtle way, this movie has a message behind it. OK, it did take me quite a bit of time to figure out what that message was – due to the awkward nature that this movie was presented in. But by the end of this flick, just before the end credits rolled, this message really did hit home.

So what is this ‘message’ I am referring to, huh? Life is what you make of it - simple, but true.

It’s there all along if you look hard enough, and then – ta-da – and it slams you right in the face with a montage sequence, one comprising of ‘life events’ which scream LIFE!

Honestly, I feel that this is really a nice yet alternate slice of cinema. All the actors are great, and never seem to slip out of character. The comedy is fine, although I do prefer the visual humor compared to the verbal humor. The story is fractured, and only redeems itself by the end of it. And generally speaking – as I said at the beginning of this review – this is a picture is of ‘another one of those films’ variety.

Napoleon Dynamite - The GangSo if you are a fan of the Wes Anderson films, 'The Royal Tenenbaums' or 'The Darjeeling Limited'. Or alternatively, the works of Jared Hess, Jon Heder, or skit humor in general, then this is a really nice movie to watch, and you won’t be disappointed one little bit. Let's dance...


NAPOLEON DYNAMITE NAPOLEON DYNAMITE Reviewed by David Andrews on July 31, 2011 Rating: 5
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