NAPOLEON DYNAMITE

I’m back, and I’m catching up on my films I should have seen series (even though I haven’t been posting about them, I have stayed committed to watching a somehow missed film every week). My entry for November 17th was Napoleon Dynamite.

Napoleon Dynamite is a off-beat comedy about a quirky high schooler who helps his new friend at school run for class president, whilst dealing with some crazy family stuff back at home.

Written by Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess, and directed by the latter; the film has an immediate, unique taste to it. What I will say is that it’s a film that grows on you as time goes by – it’s a slow burner that leaves a big impression. I enjoyed watching it at the time; but I’ve found myself thinking back on it more and more fondly as the weeks have gone by.

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This little film changed the game. Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme even goes as far as to say it’s his favourite film, saying it ‘did something new on the screen’ and ‘ moved and delighted’ him. Take it from him.

The genre is probably ‘absurdist comedy’, in the guise of a teen movie. It’s an amplified version of the awkwardness of teenage years and school life we can all relate to; but pushed to the max in a subversive, not even close to cliché way. It’s a wild script, that really is effortlessly quotable – not to the extent that I thought it would be, but enough to stay in your mind. “Tina you fat lard, come get some dinner” has been on the tip of my tongue for weeks.

Jon Heder in the titular role is transformative, and looking at photos of him in and out of costume my brain cannot compute that it is the same man.

Napoleon’s family are played by Aaron Ruell and Jon Gries as Kip and Uncle Rico respectively, with Sandy Martin as their Grandma and Shondrella Avery as Kip’s online love, Lafawnduh. They’re all batshit together, a mixing bowl of contradicting personalities all forced to coincide; that also somehow mesh in the simplest way. Does that make sense? It’s great character work, played so well by the cast.

New found best friend of Napoleon is Pedro, the new kid who decides to run for class president. He’s played by a very sweet and endearing Efren Ramirez, who is a really ace partner for Heder’s Napoleon. The third and final friend of the group is Tina Majorino as Deb, an innocent naive young girl selling key chains and photography sessions to raise money for college. She’s quirky in a sweet way, and balances out the trio in a very satisfying way.

The story is very simple: social outcast with unusual family helps friend out. But every piece of that very basic storyline is amplified to the max, with quirky dialogue and bizarre sequences that make it almost like a fever dream to experience – in a good way, obviously.

Of course, one of the most memorable elements of the film is how iconic it is aesthetically. The costumes by Diana Demke, Lulu Fetter and Yuka Ruell have spawned countless imitations – in fact, just last year Riverdale stars Camila Mendes and Lili Reinhart dressed as Napoleon and Pedro for Halloween.

Napoleon Dynamite is a film that is truly original, off the wall fun, that somehow cleverly sneaks into your mind and haunts you long after you’ve seen it. It’s fifteen years since it was first released, and still to this day it goes strong.

So if you haven’t seen, make sure you do. And make sure you vote for Pedro.


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