Napoleon Dynamite (2004) – Jared Hess

Napoleon Dynamite was huge. I remember when it came out, and hit home video, it was so big. We played it all the time in the store, it was just fun, and most of us had known someone like Napoleon while we were growing up.

That being said, Napoleon (Jon Heder) has a lot more confidence about a lot of things than the similar characters I knew growing up.

Set in rural Idaho, Napoleon is a unique and alienated kid, his brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) and his Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) aren’t that much different. They are all weird in their own way, it’s just Napoleon’s experiences are set against the backdrop of high school as his new friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) makes a run at class president.

Throw in a possible blossoming romance with Deb (Tina Majorino) a now iconic dance number, and an endless collection of quotable lines, and you have a wonderfully goofy, but heartfelt film, that makes you look back at the turn of the century and scratch your head wondering what we were all thinking.

That’s not to say the film has aged badly, but it’s just not what it once was. It’s fun, goofy, and relatable, but looking at it now, it just seems like one of those pop culture flash-in-the-pans that just happened to be the right thing at the right time.

His uncle Rico is the Springsteen song Glory Days made flesh, Kip seems like a complete putz and making things up about chatting online with ‘hot babes’ all day, only to have it be proven true, Deb is trying to make money for college by offering glamour shots, and making friendship bracelets, and the llama doesn’t want to eat.

With wonderfully eccentric tunes, delightful setups and payoffs, Napoleon Dynamite still remains a joy of a small film, one that garnered $40 million at the box office, far surpassing its meagre budget. But is it as good as you remember it being? It’s really not.

Like I said, right place, right time, it just clicked. I don’t think a film like this would resonate now. That’s not to say smaller films can’t find their audience, I’m saying an eccentric offering like this may not make it today.

Still, it’s cute. It meant a lot to me and my co-workers at the time, and I think that is one reason I remember it so fondly; days gone by. It was fun to check this one out again, but I don’t see another revisit happening, it’s time for me to leave Napoleon behind.


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