This is probably the best movie you’ve never seen – at least of the year. Why is it that the best films, usually independents, never get recognition they deserve? Is it budget? Is at lack of viewers? Whatever it is, it needs to stop. Movies like this don’t come around often and when they do, there needs to be a call made out to all film lovers to make sure this voice is heard.
Inspired by the nine-minute short ‘Peluca’ by young writer/director/actor Jared Hess about a quirky nerd changing the lives of those around him for the better, ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ is what happens when a good idea gets the time, budget and consideration it deserves. Relative newcomer Jon Heder simply rocks our world as Napoleon, an awkward teenager with an insatiable love for martial arts (which he sucks at), drawing portraits and non-existent animals (which he sucks at) and dance (which he’s hilariously good at). But it’s ok that he sucks - that’s the point. This is movie about feeling good about yourself and what you can offer whether for better or worse.
Heder, slipping into the giant 70’s-esque glasses and Einstein-like red hair, is so perfect for this role you’d think director Hess simply wrote the movie around him. Looking something akin to a depressed stoner who’s about to pass out at any moment, Heder delivers the riotously age-appropriate dialogue with such gusto that a simple word like “Gosh!” will have you rolling in the aisles. He’s so desperate for attention and so full of crap that you actually find him endearing.
Adding to the hilarious insanity is Aaron Ruell as ‘Kip,’ Napoleon’s 31-year-old internet-chatting brother, the magnificently understated Efren Ramirez as ‘Pedro,’ Napoleon’s Mexican best friend, and the painfully cute Tina Majorino as Deb, the love interest. All of them perfectly conform to Hess’ obscure look at life by performing their roles with such quirky sincerity that it will redefine the way we look at nerds and geeks much the way ‘Revenge of Nerds’ did in the ‘80’s. Ramirez’ ‘Pedro,’ for instance, is so stereotypically portrayed that is actually surpasses stereotypes and venture into a unique realm where the sleepy-eyed, slack-jawed goofball is the king. Likewise, Majorino’s ‘Deb,’ a strange cross between introspective genius and social outcast, can enthrall you just by her languid expression or dead-pan delivery. Hess must have really paid attention at his Preston, Idaho, high-school (where the movie takes place as well) to have recreated such a viscerally authentic world and characters.
As with every good story, there is a moral – never judge a book by it’s cover. Tried, but true. Napoleon is a unique character in that he has almost no fear. Whether it be chucking oranges at his Uncle’s truck, standing up to the school bullies or dancing his heart out for a friend in front of the entire school, he gives it all without a trace of hesitation or embarrassment. That takes guts; and how many nerd movies do you know that truly display that?
This really is a world unto itself, yet is so tangible and relatable that we feel like we’ve been there ourselves. We’ve all felt like outcasts or geeks at one time or another, and now we have a hero – one who blazes a new trail for all to follow. Under the clever guise of some of the dumbest and wackiest humor ever put to film, this movie definitely has the potential for a classic. It’s one of those movies that you watch over and over until you begin quoting the lines to your friends, buying the T-shirts , downloading pictures off the internet and reminiscing about your favorite memorable scenes (I like the end dance myself).
For those of you who’s been helping ‘Spider-man 2’ break box office records for the third or fourth time, take that mad money and put it towards a film that truly needs (and deserves) it. For anyone looking for that odd duck that makes you laugh silly while showing you something that is instantly relatable and mesmerizing, go get blown away by the dynamite. Napoleon Dynamite.