Napoleon Dynamite

Dynamite is right: Twenty-four-year old writer-director Jared Hess and his 23-year-old wife and co-writer, Jerusha Hess, may have little previous filmmaking experience, but like their titular hero, they've got "skills." Their first feature is one of the most original and quirkily endearing debuts since Wes Anderson's BOTTLE ROCKET. Awkward, imperfectly socialized...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

Dynamite is right: Twenty-four-year old writer-director Jared Hess and his 23-year-old wife and co-writer, Jerusha Hess, may have little previous filmmaking experience, but like their titular hero, they've got "skills." Their first feature is one of the most original and quirkily endearing debuts since Wes Anderson's BOTTLE ROCKET. Awkward, imperfectly socialized teenager Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) lives with his grandmother (Sandy Martin) and even geekier older brother, Kip (Aaron Ruell), in a small ranch house under the clear, blue, wide-open skies of Preston, Idaho. With his often elasticized waistband hiked high above his hips, pant legs tucked into his moon boots and the whole ensemble topped off with a novelty T-shirt, Napoleon is every dork who's ever been pounded by a dodgeball or shoved into a locker. Like so many before him, Napoleon's compensated by developing a belligerent edge and self-confidence in the strangest things; he's particularly proud of his ability to draw, and is convinced that his doodles of dragons, warriors and strange beasts like "ligers" — half lion, half tiger, totally wild — will prove to be a sure way to score sweet, sweet chicks. Napoleon has his eye on Deb (Tina Majorino), a shy, easily overlooked classmate who's saving for college by selling homemade boondoggle key-chains door-to-door and shooting glamour portraits of Preston locals in her parents' house. But before Napoleon can make his move, she's swiped out from under him by Pedro (Efren Ramirez), the blank-faced new kid in school who has become Napoleon's friend by default. Napoleon can deal with the disappointment, but what's totally ruining his life is the surprise appearance of sleazy Uncle Rico (Jon Gries, complete with gold chains and porno mustache) who moves out of his gold Dodge van and into Napoleon's house after Grandma injures her coccyx ATV-ing in the Idaho desert. A former football semistar whose gridiron career never extended beyond Preston High, Uncle Rico now dreams of making it rich peddling 23-piece plastic-container sets and herbal breast enhancers. Kip partners up with Rico, but Napoleon just wants him out of the house. Imagine a drier, funnier WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE (1995) minus the cruelty, and you'd have a pretty close approximation of this totally unexpected delight. Both Hesses and a surprisingly large number of their very talented cast and crew are graduates of Brigham Young University's film program: Could BYU one day join the esteemed ranks of USC and NYU?

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Dynamite is right: Twenty-four-year old writer-director Jared Hess and his 23-year-old wife and co-writer, Jerusha Hess, may have little previous filmmaking experience, but like their titular hero, they've got "skills." Their first feature is one of the mo… (more)

Show More »