Napoleon Dynamite Movie Review
Quirky comedies are not for everyone, nor is Napoleon Dynamite, the offbeat, seemingly random movie about a weird teenager who is surrounded by even weirder family members and friends. However, if you're into a comedy where low-key is funny, this is the perfect film for you.
John Heder stars in the unflattering role of Napoleon Dynamite, a teenager that is as about as strange as he looks. With curly hair, large glasses and a hanging bottom lip, he is a sight for sore eyes, and the stuff he does is equally strange. Though the movie only has a loose plot, he sets out to help his newfound friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) win the school election against the popular girl (played by Hillary Duff's sister Haylie Duff), win the heart of a girl (Tina Majorino) and drive his Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) out of the house. Maybe his older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) will even find romance in his Internet relationship.
You can call it a romantic comedy, but more than anything it is a romantic blunder. Napoleon is as smooth as, well, dynamite - "Do you drink 1% milk because you think you're fat?" The movie never really focuses on any one plot more than any other and what results is a very random film that is successful through individual scenes rather than running jokes and plotlines. This style will appeal to some and be hated by others, but director Jared Hess does everything in his power to make Napoleon Dynamite likable. From the opening credits, where the names are displayed on random pieces of food (watch the movie closely and you'll see all of the meals later on), to the final moments where Napoleon takes on a girl in tetherball, Napoleon Dynamite is quirky, offbeat and enjoyable. It is easy to root for the lead character - even if he is a loser - and it is even easier to laugh at every character, as there isn't a normal one in the whole lot. Heder, Gries, Ruell, Ramirez and the rest all play their parts to perfection.
The movie does struggle in the final act as the 80-minute running time feels really long. A movie without a plot can only go for so long before becoming old, and at about minute 60 the story begins to drag. It picks up again in the final few minutes, however, especially when Napoleon gets his groove on.
Napoleon Dynamite is a funny, entertaining and unique film that some will love and some will hate. One look at the title character should help you decide.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.