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Napoleon Dynamite

Review #242, Movie #313

Year Of Release

Jared Hess

Jeremy Coon, Chris Wyatt, Sean C Covel, Jory Weitz

Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess

Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez, Aaron Ruell and Tina Majorino

Notes And Trivia
The name Napoleon Dynamite apparently came to writer Hess by coincidence when he met a homeless man who was using the name.
It was only two days before filming was due to finish, that a young extra on the movie mentioned to Hess that the name was made up by Elvis Costello in an album in 1986.
Hess has admitted he feels a little embarrassed by the situation, and that he had no idea it was Costelloís property. Costello however hasnít taken any sort of legal action for the use of his property.

The movie is set in the 2003-2004 school year in Idaho, but many people have taken note of a number of things that appear to be of 1980s and 1990s styles, for instance the usage of VHS and Walkman tape players, particular songs heard throughout, certain vehicles, dial-up internet and certain fashions like hair in sideways ponytails and Napoleonís Moon Boots.

The shooting of the cow scene with the school bus full of kids watching, happened in real life to director Jared Hess when he was a child.

Jon Heder, who plays Napoleon and Efren Ramirez who plays Pedro, both have identical twins.

Many people claim Jon Gries is vegetarian, and the scenes where he eats steak and spits it out made people believe it even more. The real reason he was spitting it out is that it hadnít been cooked properly and tasted horrible. Gries isnít vegetarian.

The now famous dance scene at the end was choreographed by Tina Majorino. She used dance moves from Michael Jackson to Soul Train.

Napoleon Dynamite is also a remake of sorts. The original short was made by Jared Hess and Jon Heder back in 2002Ö almost everything that featured in the short made it into this movie too.

If you watch closely, none of the main characters wear footwear with laces.

Napoleon Dynamite is a loser. Not even a loveable one either. Heís also a nerd, who isnít very clever.
Heís bullied by everyone, has no friends, has a very large chip on his shoulder and is always trying to prove a point or put down those who actually take an interest in him.

Enter Pablo, the new kid.
Pablo is pretty similar to Napoleon, but seems a little more numb when it comes to a personalityÖ and Pablo decides to run for Class PresidentÖ

Ö with Napoleon in his corner.

Simply, I love this movie. Itís another one that missed out on my recent Top 100, but thatíll be rectified next year when I redo it.

When I was at school, I knew a guy who was exactly like Napoleon who we called ďVeadorĒ, and I actually looked it up to see if the movie was made by anyone I knew back then. Itís that close.

What we have is an extremely clever and realistic script that evolves round one of the most realistic and well-rounded lead characters Iíve seen in a long, long time.
The whole movie simply revolves around Napoleon and his daily hijinks, whether it be dragging a plastic toy behind the bus using fishing-wire, or playing Swing Ball by himself.
What I mean is, the movie has no real direction exactlyÖ thereís no, well, destination. Itís simply a series of connected skits with Heder, and occasionally Pablo, at the centre of it all.
Itís only in the third act when Pablo and Napoleon decide to go for Class President that thereís any real destination for the lead characters, including Majorinoís character Deb.

Each scene however, if you do get the humour, has a number of laughs and little nods to real life that are not just recognisable to most, but almost bring about a feeling of nostalgia.
The whole humour side of it is also majorly downplayed throughout. Thereís no whacky zany comedy going on, itís all held back and comes across like a sort of situational comedy.

This movie is a bit like The Big LebowskiÖ you either get it, or you donít.

This movie really revolves around characters and acting.
We have Jon Heder as Napoleon, our annoying nerd, dweeb loser. Heder nails this role and rightly so got an award for best breakthrough role.
Efren Ramirez plays Pablo, our almost emotionless counterpart for Heder. Efren also nails his role, though not seen as much as Heder.
Tina Majorino plays Deb, who at one point becomes a kind of love triangle between our two main guys. I havenít seen anything from Majorino since Waterworld, but here sheís pretty likeable.

Jon Gries backs them up as Uncle Rico, the total loser ex-Footballer who thinks heís Godís Gift to everything. Gries is fantastic, and has a number of little quirks to the way he plays what could have been just a generic ass of a character.

Aaron Ruell plays Kip, Napoleonís Brother. Ruell is also at his best as a kind of emotionless loser.

Backup comes from Haylie Duff, Emily KennardÖ and Diedrich Bader makes a brilliant show as Rex.

All in all, I canít say much more about this movie apart from, well, it exists.
You have to sit and watch it though, and if you ďgetĒ it, youíll see exactly why I love its humour and real life take on real life subjects.
A Cult Classic in the true sense of the phrase.

My Rating: 92%