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Napoleon Dynamite
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2004
I knew absolutley nothing about this flick when my 14 year old red-headed math whiz son said Dad let's go see this movie. From the opening credits I was entertained. This movie, is essentially a "day in the life of an Idaho high school nerd as he moves through various life cycle events and characters." Though the word "nerd" hardly seems to do justice to the timeless nature of title character Napoleon Dynamite. With little or no plot, Napoleon turned out to be more than part nostalgia. It was a stroll down memory lane. If I did not know that the writers in fact lived in Idaho, I would have sworn they had gone to my High School in South Florda in the late 70's. Our Senior Class Vice-President was in fact PEDRO from Mexico, our class Secretary, Melanie a blonde buxom cheerleader incarnate of this films' fictional "Summer" character and our Treasurer sported a huge Afro and all were clad in their finest disco outfits.

I guess this is why this sleeper film has gained such popularity. Forty-something dads and their teen kids can both see this movie together and come out repeating its hysterical dialogue. The current crop of teen viewers are living these absurd stereotypes and situations (dating, class elections, high school dances, the cafeteria). The oldsters in the audience either were, or knew one or more of this film's quirky characters.

The acting and dialogue are pure genius in their simplicity and absurdity. As other reviewers have mentioned, lines from this flick will become folklore. I found myself sitting around our family dinner table spouting off Napoleonisms reminiscent of the best of Monty Python.

Definitely go see this movie without any pre-conceptions, or expectations, you will be pleasantly surprised.
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122 of 134 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2004
In high school, I was one of the nameless, faceless rabble who drew little attention, maintained a low profile, and caused little trouble all in the hopes of getting out relatively unscathed, a goal I managed to accomplish, partly due to my sometimes intimidating presence, but mainly because I was able to fit in, sort of like a fish within a shoal...but there were those who weren't so fortunate, as obvious physical characteristics or personality traits (or both) tended to enunciate their presence regardless of vain attempts to `blend in' or enjoy the anonymity I, and those like me, tended to take for granted. Napoleon Dynamite (2004) is a film about one of those individuals.

The film, written and directed by Jared Hess, takes place in a small Idaho town and stars Jon Heder as the title character (he reminded me a lot of Timothy Busfield's character of Arnold Poindexter in the 1984 film Revenge of the Nerds). Also appearing is Jon Gries (Real Genius, Fright Night Part II), Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez (Kazaam), Tina Majorino (she played the little girl with the map on her back in Kevin Costner's flopperino Waterworld), and Haylie Duff, sister to the more famous Hillary Duff, who both share a surname that's the same as Homer Simpson's favorite alcoholic beverage, Duff Beer.

Napoleon Dynamite is an odd character for sure, with his shaggy red afro, moon boots (he wears them year `round), and t-shirts usually featuring those glossy iron-ons so popular in the 70's (he seems to purchase much of his wardrobe at the local thrift store) with a penchant for drawing mythical creatures, boasting about fictional girlfriends who live in other states (don't they always?), and touting his non-existent martial arts abilities, "You know, there's like a b*tt-load of gangs at this school. This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bowstaff". Oh yeah, he breathes mostly through his mouth, and his vernacular includes, but isn't limited to, the liberal usage of such words like sweet, flippin', gosh, freakin', and heck, and he, along with his 32 year old brother Kip (Ruell), live with their grandmother, who owns a llama named Tina. After an ATV accident sends grandma to the hospital, Uncle Rico (Gries) arrives to watch over the boys, and involves Kip in his schemes to make some sweet cash. Napoleon, meanwhile, finds a friend in a newly arrived Hispanic student named Pedro (Ramirez) and he and their shy and kinda dorky friend Deb (Majorino) assist Pedro in his bid to become the next student body president, their competition being Summer (Duff), member of the cheerleading squad and the most popular girl in school. Do the trio have a chance in beating the juggernaut that is Summer? Perhaps, but it requires Napoleon to pull forth from within something no one would have realized he had, not even himself...

The film is very odd...it's kind of a mix of the Coen brothers (Fargo, Raising Arizona), John Waters (Crybaby), and the earlier films of John Hughes (Sixteen Candles). There's not much of a story at the beginning, more of a series of innocuous, unrelated, comical events, but later on we do see some development in this area with regards to Napoleon and Deb helping Pedro in his running for student body president. Some scenes will make little or no sense in relation to what you may perceive as the story, so my recommendation is to just let it go, and enjoy the film for what it is, whatever it is...the real fun lies within Heder and his complete submersion into the character of Napoleon, wallowing in his own uncoolness. Initially most will probably find him annoying and off-putting, but he sort of grew on me, and I actually found myself quietly rooting for him, in his most simple of endeavors (like trying to find a sweet fanny pack at the local thrift store), but don't get the wrong impression. This isn't a triumphant nerd film (the nerd beats the jocks and/or gets the head cheerleader in the end), but a character-driven slice of weirdness that has a tendency to amuse. The dialogue contains tons of quotable lines, and comes across genuine sense of realism. The composed music by John Swihart and chosen pre-recorded material used to make the soundtrack complemented the film very well. I think my favorite scene is when Napoleon discovers his uncle's crude time machine (which he purchased of the internet), and decides to give it a try...does it work? Well, it does something, but I won't tell you what...one thing I really noticed was an absolute absence of profanity. I'm not against its' usage in films, and have even become used to it (for better or worse), so it was kinda refreshing.

The picture quality, presented in both 1.85:1 anamorphic wide screen and 1.33:1 full screen (both sides of the DVD are used), looks sharp and clear, with the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio coming through very well. Special features are numerous and include a commentary track by the director/writer Hess, actor Heder, and producer Jeremy Coon, along with deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a short film entitled `Peluca' (basically the original concept for the character of Napoleon Dynamite, also with commentary), a number of MTV promotional spots, a still gallery, a featurette on the shooting of the final scene (keep watching the film after the credits to see a newly filmed 4 minute sequence shot a year after the film was released, made especially for the DVD release), and a promo for the FOX television series Arrested Development. The special features are split between the two sides of the discs, so be sure to flip it over once you've finished one side. My recommendation is to rent the film before buying, as it's not for everyone (I wouldn't bother showing it to my mother, as I know she wouldn't attempt to understand the where the humor comes from within this film).

Cookieman108
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2004
Here is the essence of why this film is a rare gem: it portrays High School Misfits as they actually are. When I was in high school, the "nerds" and "dweebs" were not like the Hollywood stereotypes...you know, really smart, eager to please the "jocks" by doing their homework for them, into computers, etc...the sterotype that began with Revenge of the Nerds and never died. No, the bottom feeders in my school were like Nappy D. They just didn't look right. They weren't eager to please, they were irratable & antagonistic, like Napoleon. They did weird things (Napoleon throws an action figure on a string out the bus window; I remember a kid who walked around in the halls making truck noises). No, this is the perfect embodiment of what it is like to be a teenage nothing, and how in their world, everything is OK.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
For people like Roger Ebert who pan this movie... you just don't get it.

I'm not claiming any intellectual superiority or great film taste... it's just that I get it.

Perhaps because I see elements of Napoleon Dynamite in me. For instance... his response on the bus "whatever I feel like. Gosh!" When I was in 4th grade I moved from a northern town in Illinois (Geneseo) to a small town called Lousville (pronounced Lewis-ville) in very southern Illinois where the culture was very different and people had Alabama-like accents. When I was riding on the schoolbus, my first day in mid-semester, I was petrified. Everyone stared at me as they stopped at my delapidated trailer to pick me up. A little girl turned around and asked "What's your naaaaame?" To which I replied "shuuuuuuuuuuuut uuuuuup!" And from that day on was greeted by everyone in unison shouting "HI SHUUUUUTUUUP" as I walked on the bus. My reply was out of a vain effort at self-defense... not mean-ness.. and so was Napoleons.

Napoleon's journey was a remarkable, willful transformation, as was that of Deb and Pedro. Kip was amusingly transformed, but not so much with self-awareness. Uncle Rico was the only static character, which made it all the more funny because he had not changed since 1982.

Of all the lines, the one where Napleon told Deb to get her stuff because there wasn't enough room for his nunchucks made me laugh the most hysterically.

Almost all the humor, other than "the dance" was rooted in hilarious subtlety and satire. I mean, how could I not be floored by someone bragging about chatting with hot babes online.... ALL DAY!

The bizarre time-period (An elegant collage of the 70's, 80's, and 90's) gives this film a wide audience and uses silly things from all decades to make it more hilarious.

My conclusion is that people who don't like this movie are either 1) TOO nerdy to realize they are only the one side of the nerdy characters 2) They ARE Summer Wheatley 3) People like Roger Ebert who are absolutely clueless about the level of subtle humor in this film.

To the people comparing this to laughing at clowns... their reviews had me laughing as much as the movie... it's a total comedy in itself. ND is not a clown, he's flippin Superman in moonboots with a fro!

The ONLY other DVD I own is Monty Python's the Holy Grail... which also has incredibly intelligent subtle humor woven into the surface silliness.

For the intellect and the funny bone, I give ND a 5/5 stars. As far as those complaining about the "terrible" soundtrack, I wish I could give it 6/5 stars for having "Forever Young" by Alphaville and "The Promise" by When In Rome as too of the main songs in the soundtrack.

This thing just gets funnier the more I watch it.

P.S. Dear Roger Ebert... please watch this film again, then watch the piece of junk that "Garfield" is, and look at yourself in the mirror and cry.
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67 of 78 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 7, 2004
For the past few years there has been a movement in American film you could call "The New Mormon Cinema." Young Latter-day Saint filmmakers (definitely inspired by the Sundance Film Festival which is held right in their own backyard) have been making inexpensive independent films that are targeted at the Mormon population that stretches in the west from Alberta in Canada down past the Mexican border (the so-called "Mormon Corridor.") Most of these movies have been really bad, cheaply done sit-com influenced "comedies" that have had absolutely no influence on non-Mormon audiences. (With the honorable exeception of Richard Dutcher, the director of good movies like the missionary drama "God's Army" and the thriller "Brigham City.") Things began to change this year with widespread recognition going to the tough-minded World War II drama "Saints and Soldiers" and this twisted little comic masterpiece, "Napoleon Dynamite."

Jared and Jerusha Hess are products of Brigham Young University's film school and they made ND with a bunch of their friends. The unspoken assumption of this film is that most of the kids are Mormons. Some critics who misunderstood the movie as "condescending" have no experience with real people like these. I live in rural Utah and I can testify that Hess is only mildly exaggerating. The critics somehow miss the love with which the characters are drawn, just as some Minnesotans weren't too thrilled with the Coen brothers' "Fargo." Napoleon's pathetic older brother Kip has been singled out as particularly unbelievable. But believe me, Kips are a dime a dozen in Idaho (and Utah, too.)

Napoleon himself is not so much acted as incarnated by Jon Heder, who would win some sort of Oscar if people could only see he was playing a role, not living it. Napoleon is the real nerd deal, not some idealized John-Hughes-style Hollywood version. You really feel the anguish of his life, even as it provokes guilty belly laughs. The genius of the movie is how the Hesses take the angst of Todd Solondz ("Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Happiness") and put their triumphantly uniquely Mormon spin on it.

Hess is the second Mormon director, after Neil LaBute in "The Shape of Things", to make reference to singer Elvis Costello ("Napoleon Dynamite" is one of Costello's aliases.) The movie Napoleon is as physically unprepossessing as Costello is, until he starts to sing. You see, Mormons are always worrying about what other people think of them, because of their long-time outsider status in American society. This overwhelming self-consciousness can make them feel as awkward and crushed by the culture as Napoleon is. But inside they just know they are as dynamic as the very name "Napoleon Dynamite." The opportunity awaits for them to strut their true stuff. An individual like Napoleon can't be destroyed if he doesn't want to be. There's something eternal in him that will win out. The importance of this thought is why the Hesses avoid the very appearance of sentimentality in their presentation of Napoleon. You have to learn to love him in spite of his monstrous imperfections, because he is human. And you rejoice in Napoleon's final dance, which is five or six of the most joyous minutes in a movie this year.

It's also important that Kip and Napoleon redeem themselves by reaching out to others not like them. Kip hilariously to La Fawnduh, and Napoleon to Pedro and Deb. The Hesses are brave enough to make sympathetic jokes about multiculturalism here. Certainly, Preston Idaho, won't save them; but maybe Detroit and Mexico will. I left "Napoleon Dynamite" with genuinely earned good feelings about humanity in general and the future of Mormon movies in particular.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
This winning little low key comedy knocked me out with its subtle brilliance. Director Jared Hess and lead actor Jon Heder have wrought a minor miracle with this low budget, big box office film, which is so deadpan that some folks perhaps completely missed the point.

Like the delightful Christopher Guest projects A MIGHTY WIND or WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, this film definitely spoofs and caracatures its main characters; yet, it maintains a lot of affection for them as well. The mood and atmospherics of the small Idaho town are spot-on perfect...it could be Anytown USA or any school. Heder's Napoleon is a nerd for the ages. but he's also a tough survivor who's integrity and uniqueness gives him a thick skinned determination that makes you cheer when he succeeds.

Napoleon's one liners and dialog are the stuff of legends. I love his explanation of the "Liger," and his unmerited pride in his art skills.

Jon Gries as Uncle Rico is the perfect blend of oily sleaze, rockheaded idiocy, and pointless arrogance...and off-kilter menace. His routine of filming himself passing a football is so idiosyncratic and pitiful that it had me rolling on the floor. Aaron Ruell as Kip Dynamite seems to be based on John Waters, except more hip and less gross. Ruell is hilariously brilliant in a supporting role; he seems almost hateful and cold (and even nerdier than Napoleon), until he meets the hot mama LaFawnduh Lucas, played with a lot of spice by Shondrella Avery. By the end of the movie, Kip is actually almost lovable.

Then, of course, there is Pedro, who is actually a very cool cat. He is portrayed by Efran Ramirez with a winning, shy-but-confident demeanor; his deadpan delivery also provokes a lot of mirth. The movie wouldn't be complete without the lovely Tina Majorino, who plays Deb, a friend to Pedro and love interest for Napoleon (once he finally sees the *babe* Summer Wheatley for what she really is...a selfish trollop).

Napoleon's dance at the end of the film has to be seen to be believed--it's pure magic. You will, like his high school classmates, want to stand and cheer.

This DVD has some really cool extras, including commentary and a short film. The music in the movie is totally cool and enjoyable. I believe NAPOLEON DYNAMITE is a work of genius...a bit raw and unfocused at points, but a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging visionary work. The acting and directing are inspired.

One other note: this is a very clean movie and acceptable for family viewing. It's proof that creativity wins out over gratuitous nudity and profanity and violence any day.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2005
Many people say they hate this movie. They say the humor is not funny, and then they go on to cite the scenes in the movie that are not funny. For instance, the scene where Napoleon fails to make the bicycle jump and hits his crotch on the bike frame. I agree, not one of the scenes that most people reference as jokes are funny. It's not meant to be funny. It's meant to be nostalgic.

The opening music, "We're Going to Be Friends" a sentimental piece about childhood by the White Stripes sets the nostalgic tone for the entire movie. Every scene from the credits onward is meant to evoke sympathy for the main character, not humor. It would be hard stretch for anyone to think that getting hit with food is the pinnicle of comedy. However, to anyone that was alienated in high school, getting hit with food was just one of the things you had to put up with. Seeing Napoleon put up with it in a dignified way allows people who were in his position reclaim some of their own dignity.

All throughout the movie Napoleon is faced with situations that would make most people cry. He perseveres and stays true to himself, just like he tells Pedro to do before the class president speech. It is this process of taking comfort from bitter situations or even courageously quipping a one liner in the face of dehumanizing alienation that gives this film its infectious charm.

If you go into the movie prepared to laugh at Napoleon or anyone else in the movie you will be sorely disappointed. To really find humor in this movie you are forced to find humor in your own past alienation. Unfortunately for some people this is too difficult to do, and they come away from this movie dissatisfied. Those who are able to laugh at themselves will find this movie to be satisfyingly bitter sweet.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Napoleon Dynamite has been recently released on DVD. The small, independent film has become one with a lot of fans. Buttons declaring, "I love tater tots" and "Vote for Pedro" are sold in popular stores. T-shirts identical to those worn by cast members are sold at many online websites.

Why has the nation fallen in love with Napoleon Dynamite? For one thing, the characters are incredibly memorable. Napoleon is a classic outcast who walks around with his eyes half closed and his mouth half open saying random things like, "I caught you a delicious bass" and playing tether ball by himself. His brother Kip, a thirty two year old man with braces, chats online all day with "babes" and meets the love of his life, a black woman named Lafawnduh who teaches him how men behave in Detroit where she lives. The Dynamite brothers are forced to be babysat by their uncle Rico when their grandmother is injured in a dirt bike accident. Rico wishes he lived in the 1980s although much of the movie seems to be set then anyway. Napoleon's friend Pedro, a new kid at school, decides to run for class president. Deb, a shy girl, takes glamour shots and sells boondoggle key chains to raise money for college. Each of the outcast characters has their own unique personality traits that make the movie funny and interesting.

The pacing of the film is slow at times and after viewing it the first time, you might be thinking, "What just happened?" Think about the jokes, think about the characters, and you'll be laughing for sure.

Many of the scenes in the film are random. When the film starts, viewers see Napoleon embarking on a children's school bus and tossing an action figure attached to a string out the window. The scene ends and is never made reference to again.

That last scene at the end of the credits is a welcome addition to the film.

The deleted scenes are pretty good too. The best one is where they kids are playing kickball in gym class.

Much of the movie seems to take place in the 1980s although it is not. Deb wears her hair in a side ponytail in several scenes. The school dance features Cindi Lauper's "Time After Time" and puffy sleeved dresses. However, more modern things tell that the town is only partially in a timewarp. The Backstreet Boys' "Larger Than Life" is played at the end of the film. The confusion over the time period adds to the subtle humor of the film.

Most of the humor is found in Napoleon's own mind. He believes that girls only like guys with skills so he wants to learn how to use nun chucks and hack into computers. He also tells stories about "ligers," his favorite animals which are bred from a lion and a tiger for their magical powers. One of his most common utterances when asked what he is going to do is, "Whatever I feel like I want to do, gosh!"

Some of the film seems cliché like the popular girls that are mean to Napoleon and Pedro and some of the jokes but these things are downplayed and take a backseat to the scenes between the outcast characters.

The full effect of the film can only be experienced when one sees the way the actors deliver their lines and maintain their characters. Overall, it is an excellent comedy and a nice change of pace from the standard formula we are used to.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Never in a thousand years would I have thought I would like this movie. As a matter of fact I would bet the farm I wouldn't have liked it at all. But had I done just that I would have lost.

The gritty honesty in the characters, their ingenuity, their friendship, their loyalty and their bravery all excellent character traits, and displayed in this movie quite well. The honesty from the opening credits let's you know that this is a low budget movie about real people so you know not to expect any fancy special effects or stunts for example. The ingenuity displayed by the characters for example Pedro's use of a cake to ask girls out on dates is perfect. It shows the right amount of thoughtfulness and romance, just exactly the sort of things women of all ages love. The friendship displayed between Napoleon and Pedro helping each other out in the movie. The loyalty Napoleon displays by buying his friend a wig when he wanted something for himself. The bravery Napoleon displayed going on stage to help out his friend.

There are many moments like these through out the movie. It is the kind of movie the makes you feel like a better person for watching it. It is the kind of movie however one can easily overlook. And now after watching Napoleon Dynamite I can honestly say that had I NOT seen this movie, I would have lost.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2004
One of the earlier reviewers did an excellent job of critiquing the frequently clueless Roger Ebert for his complete misunderstanding of this character and this movie. Napoleon is a rural supernerd who doesn't want or need the acceptance of those around him. He doesn't long to be popular, he doesn't really care what people think of him, he just wants the space to be himself.

What's great about the character is that Naploen doesn't really change at all through the course of the movie. Sure, he helps a friend win a student election and manages to find a girl; but these are the result of Napoleon being who he is, not because he changed or grew into something else. He starts the movie as an almost monotonal, oblivious, strangely dressed little boy - and that's exactly how he is at the end of the movie. He doesn't even seem to realize it, but he's changed a lot of the people around him. Pedro gets some self confidence, Deb finds a guy who accepts her, Kip is happy, and even uncle Rico manages to stumble into a good deal.

Not that I care one way or the other, but the movie manages to be enormously entertaining without resorting to potty humor or wholesale swearing even once. An impressive feat considering the status quo of "comedies" these days.

My only gripe would be with the "extra" scene that was added in after the credits when the movie started earning some bucks. It really just seems tacked on and kind of pointless. I would have rather seen a few more minutes at the chicken farm, or some time spent showing how Rico met his girlfriend, or even some more of Napoleon as the biggest kid on the school bus. The tetherball game was the perfect ending for this movie, and nothing was gained by the addition of the new post-credits scene.

If you want something to compare it to, it carries a lot of the same pleasantly deluded loser vibe that "Bottle Rocket" had, along with a similarly great soundtrack. It's a great date movie, and a superior original low-budget comedy.

Now if I can only get my hands on a D-Qwon's Dance-grooves VHS, I'll be OK.
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