Worth A Look: 19.63%
Pretty Bad: 5.52%
Total Crap: 17.48%
11 reviews, 260 user ratings
by Scott Weinberg
Following firmly in the footsteps of modern cinema geekdom right behind Max Fischer ("Rushmore"), Dawn Wiener ("Welcome to the Dollhouse") and the eye-rolling Enid ("Ghost World") is Napoleon Dynamite. Be forewarned though: Napoleon's an ornery little nerd who'd just as soon bite your head off with a sarcastic smirk than deign to talk to you.There's a slyly shocking realism to the details of Napoleon Dynamite, as if it could have been made only by someone who once wore moon boots and a huge unkempt red afro to school. One suspects that first-time writer/director Jared Hess was, once upon a time, an oddball of this caliber, one who eventually rose above his social ineptitude and venomous disdain for other people to become the creator of... a vicious little nerdly troll who's socially inept and has a venomous disdain for other people.
"Meet Napoleon Dynamite: The Geek You'll Hate to Love"
Well, most people anyway.
Napoleon hates his big brother Kip, who is an officious little pervert who trolls the internet chat rooms in search of a woman.
Napoleon also hates his obtuse Uncle Rico, the brothers' unwelcome caretaker after Grandma injures her hip in a nasty dune buggy accident.
Napoleon really hates Tina, because he always has to feed her. Tina is his grandmother's pet llama.
One person Napoleon doesn't seem to hate is Pedro. Newly arrived in the backwater burg of Preston, Idaho, Pedro is of Mexican descent and speaks rather poor English. Pedro and Napoleon become friends over shared tater tots.
So if Napoleon Dynamite is a fairly unlikeable geek who hates everyone except for the new Mexican kid at school, what makes us think he's worthy of a whole movie?
Well, if all you know of Movie Geekdom is that "Jon Cryer as Ducky was, like, hilarious!" then perhaps Napoleon Dynamite is not for you. If, however, you're on the lookout for a smart, subversive, endlessly sarcastic and oddly poignant little curiosity - be sure to get in line once Napoleon Dynamite hits town, because it's a guaranteed Cult Favorite waiting to happen.
A movie becomes a Cult Favorite partially by being a little...untraditional, but mainly these movies strike a chord because there's some subtle craftsmanship and quiet artistry that elevate the films beyond typical multiplex fare. There's a depth of character and droll humor in Napoleon Dynamite that recalls a dash of the Coens and a pinch of Wes Anderson. Despite offering a few different flavors of indie-cinema inspirations, Hess confidently creates something that's still fresh and unique.
Jon Heder, in the title role, dives face-first into the character of Napoleon. So memorably odd is his performance that one suspects he may have trouble finding roles in the future. He simply IS Napoleon Dynamite, so much so that it's almost like watching a documentary. Jon Gries (The Rundown) offers a fantastically funny turn as the stuck-in-the-80s Uncle Rico, while Aaron Ruell is suitably creepy (in an oddly humorous way) as Napoleon's ubergeek brother. Efren Ramirez (Rave), as the mild-mannered Pedro, is quite strong throughout; he and Heder share several excellent moments.
Toss in a great supporting turn by Tina Majorino (Waterworld), a soundtrack populated by some of the most obnoxious 80s tunes ever recorded, and a bleakly hilarious approach to the oft-told tale of Geeks Gone Wild... like I said, you're looking at a cult classic just waiting to happen."Napoleon Dynamite" is a shining exmple of what Independent Movies are all about. There's no WAY something this odd and acerbic and just plain different would ever get produced via the Hollywood Machine. So Hess banged the thing together on his own, made it sing, and then sold it to the distributor willing to release the thing on 1,000 screens. Now all you have to do is go buy a ticket.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8532&reviewer=128
originally posted: 05/18/04 10:46:03
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.