> Volume 6 > Number 24


Jared Hess

Jon Heder
Efren Ramirez
Jon Gries
Aaron Ruell
Tina Majorino
Haylie Duff

Release: 11 Jun. 04

Napoleon Dynamite


Last year my choice for the worst film of the year was The Real Cancun, a film dedicated to the de-nerdification of a kid in the eyes of his Abercrombie-beautiful roommates during Spring Break. Though The Real Cancun was called a reality film, its supposed tap on "reality" was abhorrently presented with odd narrative shifts, unfulfilled plots, and unconvincing character outlines. The same can be said about Sundance sensation Napoleon Dynamite, the fiction derivation of The Real Cancun. Iím already hedging bets that itíll be my choice for this yearís worst film.

Taking the agitation out of Todd Solondz, the good-humor out of the Coen brothers, and the sweetness out of Wes Anderson, director Jared Hess presents a wholly unpleasant experience of watching those director's stock miscreants as oppressively cloying caricatures. Napoleon Dynamite is a 90-minute non-sequitur aiming for the audience to laugh at how utterly clueless the characters are. Look at the kid feed his llama! Look at the nerdy white guy meet his big black internet girlfriend! Look at the failed jock electrocute his crotch! Thereís probably three dozen jokes that make up Napoleon Dynamite, and the whole movie is merely meant to setup each unfunny follow-through.

This is not Rushmore or Welcome to the Dollhouse -- the outsiders of those films werenít exploited for the movie audiences and the directorís ridicule. In many ways, this is the long-awaited Bruno Dumont comedy, starring an unknown in the Adam Sandler role. Thereís nothing in this film other than derision for the nerds, the blacks, the Latinos, and the jocks. Stepping on toes is part and parcel for Hess, and the final product is a completely unpleasant experience. Whatís worse, I wasnít offended by anything in the film -- that would imply the work actually having some bite -- I was just disturbed that anyone ever considered this humorous

©2004, David Perry,, 11 June 2004