Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Review by Boniface

Napoleon Dynamite
(2004, PG), directed by Jared and Jerusha Hess, is one of those very special films that you simply must see, if for no other reason than everybody else has already seen it. The film follows the story of teen misfit Napoleon Dynamite as he fuddles his way awkwardly through high school while trying to stop his freeloading Uncle Rico from destroying his social life. If this doesn't sound funny, you'll just have to take my word for it and see the film. I know it doesn't sound like much, but somehow it all manages to come together.

Although the supporting cast (Aaron Ruell, Dieterich Bader, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez and Tina Majorino) are all excellent, this film simply would not have worked without Jon Heder in the star role as Napoleon. The demeanor and atmosphere that Heder is able to create are so convincing that, upon first watching this film, I was uncertain whether it was a documentary or not. Heder's voice as Napoleon has become iconic, and lines like "my lips hurt really bad" and "I could make that much money in like five seconds" are common sayings, in my house at least. Without Jon Heder in this role, this film still would have been funny, but not nearly as much.

This film has become so popular and ubiquitous that many have reacted against it for this very reason, claiming that it is stupid or unfunny or just doesn't make sense. I suppose part of this is taste. You either like theĀ  character-driven comedic style of directors Jared and Jerusha Hess or you don't. But it an untruth to say the film does not make sense or has no real plot. This film is about one thing and one thing only; friendship, especially that special sort of friendship that makes youth sweet. I won't give away any more of the plot than this, but if you keep this in mind as the central theme, I think you will be pleasantly surprised (I wish I could say the same about the Hess' follow up film Nacho Libre, but unfortunately I cannot - that film kind of stunk).

There is nothing objectionable in this film from a Catholic standpoint, with the possible exception of a brief sub-plot in which Napoleon's Uncle Rico attempts to make some quick cash selling all natural, herbal breast enhancement treatments. There is no bad language, no blasphemy, and the Faith is actually portrayed positively in the person of Napoleon's friend, Pedro, a Mexican immigrant whose notable characteristic is his humility and faithfulness. When giving a speech in the class elections, Pedro suggests that the high school could use "some holy statues" in the hallways.

Strangely enough, the film flopped when it debuted in box offices, making a measly $116,000, perhaps more due to its limited release. But within two years, a broader world release and DVD sales brought the profit of the film up to an astounding $46 million. It continues to rake in cash to this day and has spawned several offshoots.

For its unique characters and character development, wonderful humor, the nostaligic elements, even the excellent cinematography and sountrack, and overall the themes of friendship and honesty, I give Napoleon Dynamite three papal tiaras.