The damnable thing about Napoleon Dynamite is that even if you don't like it, it can still seep into your brain. I think the movie's a whole lot of nothing, yet I still imitate the title character whenever I do something stupid (which is like a dozen times a day). It's not hard: Just slacken your jaw, lower your voice and grunt, "Gah!... Idiot!"
Napoleon Dynamite's already booming cult following can be attributed mainly to Jon Heder's performance in the lead role. He plays a dim, gawky, frizzy-haired high school loser who blocks out his bullying peers by pretending that he's actually cooler than they are. The rest of the movie's juice comes from its deadpan absurdity. Writer/director Jared Hess puts plain-looking people in clothes about 20 years out of fashion, and he has them holler ridiculously serious things at each other. It's a funny short-film idea stretched into a pretty pointless feature, with the good laughs predictably thinned out.
The plot is sort of a cartoonish riff on '80s teen comedies. Napoleon suffers through adolescence with few friends, narrow romantic prospects and no parents (just an equally nerdy older brother, a huckster uncle and a frequently absent grandmother). Hess has nothing to say about Napoleon's condition. The movie's retro look and flat characters are stunted by design. Napoleon Dynamite is to indie films what Franz Ferdinand is to indie rocka cozy lump of familiar feelings and easy hooks, devoid of real substance.
Still, the movie is quotable and distinctive-looking, and basically harmless. Some have complained that Hess is unfairly skewering Middle America, but the movie doesn't have that kind of edge, or imagination. It's no more a mockery of rural America than Porky Pig is a mockery of swine.
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That clip is horrifying. It looks like postmortem makeup. Very uncanny valley.
AGGGHHHH that last picture!