|Napoleon Dynamite (DVD, 2008, 2-Disc Set, Checkpoint; Includes Digital Copy; Sensormatic;W) (DVD, 2008)|
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There is a kind of studied stupidity that sometimes passes as humor, and Jared Hess' "Napoleon Dynamite" pushes it as far as it can go. Its hero is the kind of nerd other nerds avoid, and the movie is about his steady progress toward complete social unacceptability. Even his victory toward the end, if it is a victory, comes at the cost of clowning before his fellow students.
We can laugh at comedies like this for two reasons: Because we feel superior to the characters, or because we pity or like them. I do not much like laughing down at people, which is why the comedies of Adam Sandler make me squirmy (most people, I know, laugh because they like him). In the case of Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), I certainly don't like him, but then the movie makes no attempt to make him likable. Truth is, it doesn't even try to be a comedy. It tells his story and we are supposed to laugh because we find humor the movie pretends it doesn't know about.
Napoleon is tall, ungainly, depressed, and happy to be left alone. He has red hair that must take hours in front of the mirror to look so bad. He wants us to know he is lonely by choice. He lives outside of town with his brother Kip (Aaron Ruell), whose waking life is spent online in chat rooms, and with his grandmother, who is laid up fairly early in a dune buggy accident. It could funny to have a granny on a dune buggy; I smile at least at the title of the Troma film "Rabid Grannies."
But in this film the accident is essentially an aside, an excuse to explain the arrival on the farm of Napoleon's Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), a man for whom time has stood still ever since the 1982 high school sports season, when things, he still believes, should have turned out differently. Rico is a door-to-door salesman for a herbal breast enlargement potion, a product that exists only for the purpose of demonstrating Rico's cluelessness. In an age when even the Fuller Brush Man would be greeted with a shotgun (does anyone even remember him?), Rico's product exists in the twilight zone.
Life at high school is daily misery for Napoleon, who is picked on cruelly and routinely. He finally makes a single friend, Pedro (Efren Ramirez), the school's only Latino, and manages his campaign for class president. He has a crush on a girl named Deb (Tina Majorino), but his strategy is so inept that it has the indirect result of Deb going to the prom with Pedro. His entire prom experience consists of cutting in.
Watching "Napoleon Dynamite," I was reminded of "Welcome to the Dollhouse," Todd Solondz's brilliant 1996 film, starring Heather Matarazzo as an unpopular junior high school girl. But that film was informed by anger and passion, and the character fought back. Napoleon seems to passively invite ridicule, and his attempts to succeed have a studied indifference, as if he is mocking his own efforts.
I'm told the movie was greeted at Sundance with lots of laughter, but then Sundance audiences are concerned with being cool, and to sit through this film in depressed silence would not be cool, however urgently it might be appropriate.
Some people have DVD collections filled with DVDs that are watched once and collect dust for months more. I prefer to only collect movies that I’ll watch multiple times… “Napoleon Dynamite” is a movie that can be watched again and again and again. Its so strange and unique – and the characters so bizarre and finely acted (if that’s possible) – that the movie allows itself to be watched repeatedly. Additionally, the DVD comes with added features and clips and commentary that provide added entertainment.
Jon Heder (now an MTV and Dairy Queen celebrit) plays Napoleon perfectly – a high school odd-ball who is quite comfortable in his strangeness. Jon Gries, as Uncle Rico, steals and scene in which he appers. And Aaron Ruell as Kip Dynamite is so awkward that you cant help but laugh… his internet romance with LaFawnduh Lucas is high comedy.
Own the DVD and you can watch these lines any time you like:
Napoleon Dynamite: I spent like three hours doing shading the upper lip. It's probably the best drawing I've ever done.
Trisha: Yeah... it's really... neat.
Napoleon Dynamite: Stay home and eat all the freakin' chips, Kip.
Kip: Napoleon, don't be jealous that I've been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know that I'm training to be a cage fighter.
Napoleon Dynamite: Since when, Kip? You have the worst reflexes of all time.
Kip: Try and hit me, Napoleon.
Napoleon Dynamite: What?
Kip: I said come down here and see what happens if you try and hit me.
Don: Hey, Napoleon. What did you do last summer again?
Napoleon Dynamite: I told you! I spent it with my uncle in Alaska hunting wolverines!
Don: Did you shoot any?
Napoleon Dynamite: Yes, like 50 of 'em! They kept trying to attack my cousins, what the heck would you do in a situation like that?
Don: What kind of gun did you use?
Napoleon Dynamite: A freakin' 12-gauge, what do you think?
Deb: What are you drawing?
Napoleon Dynamite: A liger.
Deb: What's a liger?
Napoleon Dynamite: It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a lion and a tiger mixed... bred for its skills in magic.
Napoleon Dynamite is a slightly surreal, subtle but hilarious comedy, of an midwestern highschooler and his crazy antics.
His 32 year older brother Kip (who is training to become a cage fighter), best friend Pedro and scheming Uncle Rico are also involved in their own crazy frolics. Napoleon lives in a fantasy world where he is pretty good with a bow staff amongst other great skills. When Pedro decides to run for school president, Napoleon is determined to help his friend succeed, even if it means letting him use some of his ultimate skills.
This film definitely a favorite of mine and is probably the most quotable movie ever. I can see why some people don't get it but give it a chance, it's crazy funny. Jon Heder can make you laugh just by looking at him do nothing.
In my book, this flick is surely one of the new classics.
The first time I saw Napoleon Dynamite, I just couldn't comprehend how someone could like the movie. It seemed stupid, slow and pointless. Well, as with many things in life, one must give it a second try and I did. When I watched the movie with an open mind, I couldn't stop laughing. I'm 43 and the characters in the movie are as true-to-life and one could possibly get. The HORRIBLE fashions were mainstream and noone realized at the time just how STUPID they really looked. The geek boys were always hoping they could score with the most popular girl in school, something I know has and will never change. Let's hear it for optimism. And that's what this entire movie is really all about. Everyone feels their childhood wasn't perfect, but when you watch Napoleon, you realize things were pretty darn normal. The characters are a scream. Every single solitary one of them from Napoleaon's brother Kip and his "Chat Room" girlfriend La Fonda, to his grandma, his uncle and his best friend Pedro. The innocense of the movie is hysterical and it's far too fun to laugh at the past. Whenever I need a good pick-me-up, Napoleon's going in my DVD player and up on my 73" screen! The special scenes and additions on these disks are great!
Napoleon Dynamite (2004, 86 min., PG) – Jared Hess’s first movie is a flippin’ little comic gem. It features Napoleon (Jon Heder)—no relation to Elvis Costello’s alter-ego—as a nerdy high schooler who gets by with his 32 year old brother (and fellow Pampers wearer) Kip (Aaron Ruell), his stuck-in-1982 Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), his laconic immigrant friend (“You have my back?”) Pedro (Efrem Ramirez), and his “woman” Deb (Tina Majorino). Absurdity combines with reality in a deadpan, non-judgmental narrative. While exaggerated, these are people we all know. Even the filming is deadpan. Hess shoots the characters straight on, unless it’s an “action” shot, where a static camera waits for a car, bike, etc. to enter the frame. We watch: Napoleon fall over a fence and get slammed into lockers, yet learn to dance; Pedro run for class president (“we do it all the time in Mexico” he explains about bashing a piñata that bears the likeness of his electoral rival); Kip successfully hook up with babes on the Internet; LaFawnduh (Shondrella Avery) visit and pimp Kip’s wardrobe; Rico sell Tupperware and breast enhancing herbs, while making videos of himself throwing a football; and Deb’s artistic attempts to raise money for college. Meanwhile, a cow gets shot and bullies work over weaklings. Stay through the credits for the wedding scene.