Movie Poster
Napoleon Dynamite
Jared Hess
Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Aaron Ruell, Tina Majorino, Diedrich Bader
86 min.


Jared Hess was obviously shooting for originality. The same originality that we saw in Rushmore. The quirkiness is exactly that quirkiness which has been market proven in countless other quirky independent comedies.

Aside from all this, though, Napoleon Dynamite is pretty funny. The title character is an endearing creation, somehow both nerdy beyond belief and readily identifiable. Simply an exaggeration, for comic effect, but with a real character at its heart.

The performances are almost uniformly deadpan, to varying degrees of effectiveness, except among the villains. The heroes all stand frequently motionless and expressionless, speaking blankly. The resident high school dickheads are more animated. Napoleon's nemesis, Don, is a proto-human-looking Scandinavian, like a date-rape-enthusiast Max Von Sydow. Don's girlfriend is played to evil popular-girl perfection by Hilary Duff's sister (almost as though she knows the role). But Napoleon floats somewhere not inbetween, but within both camps. He rocks the flat affect Hess seems to have instructed his actors to don, but flaps around like some big uncoordinated bird when his character is called on to move at all. He also seems to have his eyes closed through most of the movie, which is an interesting choice, and adds to the originality, if not of the movie, than at least of the character.

There isn't really a story, just a string of amusing vignettes. The vignettes about Napoleon's brother Kip and uncle Rico aren't as interesting as the rest of the film, frequently falling into the no man's land between boring and mildly offensive.

In the end, the deciding merit of the film is whether or not you can connect to Napoleon and his drab awkward little life. It is certainly funny, and I found Napoleon to be a suitably substantive center.

Pat Jackson