- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Fox Searchlight
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
eing crowned the King of Buzz at the Sundance Film Festival doesn’t always equal success, but sometimes it can turn a small movie into a big deal, and “Napoleon Dynamite” certainly fits the bill with its wildly eccentric hero popping up everywhere on TV these days. The film succeeds not only as a unique, independent comedy, but also as a charming coming-of-age tale that appeals to people of every age. “Napoleon Dynamite” isn't exactly the year's funniest film, but it does make for a memorable experience that can be enjoyed over and over again.
Newcomer Jon Heder stars as the title character, possibly the dorkiest character in the history of film. Napoleon Dynamite is a sleepy-eyed social zombie, complete with a frizzy, red-haired afro and worn-out moon boots that he wears wherever he goes. He rarely speaks to the opposite sex because he believes that girls want a guy with skills (like bow hunting), and when he does talk to them, he says things like, “Are you drinking 1% milk because you thing your fat? Cause you’re not, you know. You could drink whole milk if you wanted to.”
Napoleon’s older (and possibly dorkier) brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) spends his days at home on the internet chatting up women because he’s a real “ladies man,” but when their Grandma gets injured while riding her ATV around the local sand dunes, their has-been Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) is sent to keep an eye on the boys. Uncle Rico fantasizes about his high school football years and makes a living off of get-rich-quick schemes; he even wastes his hard earned money on a time machine from eBay with the hopes of traveling back in time and becoming an all-state quarterback. Napoleon would rather waste away his days drawing than deal with his family, but when a Mexican student (Efren Ramirez) begins his new life at the small Idaho high school, Napoleon takes him under his wing and helps him run for class president against the school’s head cheerleader ( Haylie Duff).
“Napoleon Dynamite” is a hilarious look at surviving adolescence through a family-friendly character whose exaggerated exclamations of “idiot” and “gosh” are about as risky as he gets. But that’s not to say the film doesn’t have its darker tones either. Uncle Rico is clearly the least ethical character of the story with his vast array of con jobs, but even good guys like Pedro have their moments with campaign efforts that allow his fellow students to bash piñatas resembling his competitor.
What’s ultimately so comical about the film is that a lot of viewers believe the story takes place in the 80’s, due to the retro clothing and pop cultural references to things like Glamour Shots and “The A-Team." But after consulting my Mormon friend from BYU (where both the director and star attend) on the subject, I was informed of how life really is in the highly-concentrated Mormon areas of Idaho and Utah. In a place where they are seemingly a decade behind the times, it only makes sense that the characters should look and act the way the do. If you’re looking for a light, original movie that is sure to please the whole family, check out “Napoleon Dynamite” and learn how to unlock the true potential of your cafeteria’s tater tots.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Featuring all of the same extras from the Like, the Best Special Edition Ever DVD, the single-disc release of “Napoleon Dynamite” is jam-packed with hours of goodies including two cast/crew audio commentaries, an excellent documentary on writer/director Jared Hess’ Sundance experience (“World Premiere), and a 41-minute making-of featurette (“On Location”). The Blu-ray edition also features an interview with casting director Jory Weitz, audition videos for three of the co-stars, the 2002 short film “Peluca” that served as inspiration for the film, and a ton of “Napoleon Sightings” including the “Tankman Begins” MTV Movie Awards spoof, Jon Heder’s intro from his hosting gig on “SNL,” Utah State Fair TV spots and more.