Napoleon Dynamite

Goofy, hard-to-categorize high school comedy about title character (Heder) — an afro-topped beanpole with buckteeth — who doesn’t talk so much as huff in exasperated tones. The story concerns Napoleon’s attempt to help Pedro (Ramirez), an immigrant and new student, win his bid for Class President against a popular blonde chick. At home, he bickers with his older brother — a lonely chat-line addict who’s romancing a woman over the internet — and with his uncle, a loser/dreamer/Tupperware huckster, who comes to stay with them after their grandmother takes ill. Absolutely weird in its tone and pacing, like Jared Hess has seen and absorbed not just Tod Solondz but a lot of underground filmmakers (like early David Lynch), to create this gently subversive aura. Hess’s direction is assured if a bit plodding, and his cast is consistently hilarious. Some of the laughs score too easily (e.g. moon boots, mustaches, the “Election Dance” finale), but overall this one’s too odd to dismiss and often truly funny.

Grade: B

Directed by: Jared Hess
Written by: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess
Cast: Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell, Diedrich Bader, Tina Majorino

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