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Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
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Review Date: June 15, 2004
Director: Jared Hess
Writer: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess
Producers: Chris Wyatt, Jeremy Coon, Sean Covel
Actors:
John Heder as Napoleon
Efren Ramirez as Pedro
Jon Gries as Uncle Rico
Plot:
A big-time Idaho nerd doesn't quite fit into his high school surroundings and seems to get beat up by the jocks a lot. Then one day, he meets a new kid named Pedro and starts hanging with him for companionship. The two nerds try their best to make sense of their lives and their inability to date girls, and take part in various activities for stimulation. The first nerd's bro and uncle also take part. A few days in the life of a big-time loser...ensues.
Critique:
This film's tagline professes that Napoleon Dynamite is "Out to prove that he's got nothing to prove." A pretty cool tagline. Unfortunately, the film itself suffers from some of that slogan's intention and doesn't really have much to say, other than the story of a big-time loser kid who's funny at times, but mostly just annoyed, bored, inept, insecure and confused. If I wanted to spend 90 minutes with someone like that, I'd just watch myself in the mirror...for 90 minutes. That's not to say that the movie doesn't entertain, because it does, in some parts. There's no story per se-so basically we're just following this big nerd around for a buck and a half, as he tries to ask a girl out, gets beat out by jocks, goes back and forth with his bigger-loser uncle, helps his friend run for the school election and so on and so forth. Some have compared this film to both RUSHMORE and ELECTION, both of which I'd qualify as much better and more accomplished because those films had the laughs, the story and the quirky characters to go along with the similar themes of ostracization in high school. One of this film's coolest ditties is its opening credit sequence that had to be one of the most original ones that I'd seen in years. Good going on that front! The lead actor, John Heder, was also ideally geeky, with a certain "sleepy" quality about him that was endearing, as well as a hilarious "annoyed" way that he would finish most of his sentences, "What do you think!?!" I also liked the way he would qualify anything cool as "Sweeeeeeet".

Unfortunately, the film doesn't have too many inspired scenarios, spends a lot of time focusing on these hyper-real situations that don't sincerely reflect actual life (who walks around school with that type of zoned look on their face, how does one suddenly learn to dance so well in so little time, etc...) and ultimately didn't make me laugh as much as it wanted to. Also, this wasn't a problem in the film per se, but in what era was it set? The clothes seemed to come from the 70s, the tunes from the 80s and the Internet stuff from the 90s. That said, the audience with whom I caught the flick was in full "Napoleon mode", laughing at almost every two-bit word or look out of the chump, so if you're into lingering pauses by characters in film, and quirky situations that don't seem real, but might be funny to you, maybe you'll enjoy it much more than I did (read: arthouse). If, on the other hand, you like your comedies "straight" and don't see yourself getting into major-nerd characters who don't particularly win you over with their lame personalities, check out MEAN GIRLS instead. You also have to be in an "I don't give a shit" mood to appreciate this movie on its quirkier level...I was in "dicky" mood, so I didn't really connect. At some point, Napoleon's even bigger, nerdier brother (yeah, pretty much every single person in this film is a loser) hooks it up with a black woman and that situation turned rather humorous, and his uncle Rico was pretty damn consistently idiotic, sexist and goofy the whole way through (dug the time-travel bit), but again, the film as a whole didn't really blow me away, particularly since I'd been hearing such great things about it since Sundance. Check it out in theaters if it sounds like your kind of film, otherwise, video/dvd might just do the trick.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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