Movie Review: Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Starring: Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez and Tina Majorino

Directed by: Jared Hess

Napoleon Dynamite is an alienated high school teen who is a little eccentric and doesn’t get along with people very well. With the class presidency coming up he decides to put all his efforts towards helping his friend Pedro beat popular mean teen Summer Wheatley.

I’ve always had mixed feelings whether I wanted to watch Napoleon Dynamite, on one hand a lot of people rave about how funny it is and even on the DVD cover there’s a quote from British comedian Matt Lucas which claims “One of the funniest things you will ever see”. But to counter that argument, I’ve seen about 10 minutes of this movie before while I was channel surfing a number of years back and I just didn’t understand what was going on and immediately turned it off through lack of enjoyment. With that being said, I’m trying to make my way through my huge unwatched pile of DVDs and trying to watch as many different films as I can I thought why not give it a chance?

Jon Heder stars as title character Napoleon Dynamite who lives in Preston, Idaho with his grandma and is an extremely eccentric person who is somewhat of a loner. He befriends school new comer Pedro who is quiet and a bit of a recluse just like Napoleon. After Pedro gets rejected by Summer Wheatley to take her to the school dance, Napoleon convinces him to run for school president which Summer is also running for and to beat the popular girl to the position. With very little people skills between Napoleon and Pedro, their plan looks like a flop until Napoleon unleashes his secret weapon.

During the course of watching this movie I kept changing my mind as to what I thought about it. At times I was finding it hilariously funny which was living up to the hype but then at other moments I just really didn’t understand what was going on and certain parts of the comedy just fell flat. Jon Heder deserves a lot of plaudits for his portrayal of Napoleon Dynamite, while the comedy may not have always worked just the mannerisms and characteristics he displayed throughout the movie were consistent and perfectly portrayed. The story was pretty basic without a great deal actually happening but some of the characters and their relationships were interesting enough to mask the weak plot. The script was well written with some intricate comedy included but the highlight of the movie was Napoleon Dynamite’s dance scene towards the very end of the film. For me it’ll go down as one of those classic comedy movie scenes that will be remembered for a long long time.

To conclude, Napoleon Dynamite is an extremely polarising movie that you will either love or hate. For me it was a combination of both but my appreciation for Jon Heder’s performance made this movie a decent watch overall.


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