By Brian Rentschler
Short version: Sweet! This movie has, like, almost no story, but it’s flippin’ hilarious! Gosh!
Napoleon Dynamite is one of those movies that you’ll either love or hate. There’s not too much in between. About half the people who see it will think it’s a classic, and the other half will think it’s one of the dumbest movies they’ve ever seen. I happen to think it’s a classic — not because the storyline is incredibly developed (it’s not), not because the movie has a ground-breaking point to make (it doesn’t), but because it’s one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. I had a big grin on my face throughout the entire movie, and at times I was laughing so hard that I almost couldn’t catch my breath. Most of the movie makes absolutely no sense, but it doesn’t matter because it’s so funny, and even charming at times.
The movie’s tagline is “He’s out to prove he’s got nothing to prove” and that’s quite accurate. Set in Preston, Idaho, the movie does a good job of reminding the audience how silly and pointless high school can be. Napoleon Dynamite (played by Jon Heder) is his own person; he has no need to be popular. However, that’s a double-edged sword, since he’s a prime target for the bullies and jocks, who give him a hard time every chance they get. As if that’s not bad enough, his home life is almost worse than his school life. He and his older brother, Kip (played by Aaron Ruell), live with their grandma, but when she goes on vacation, she has their Uncle Rico (played by Jon Gries) stop by to take care of them. To say that Uncle Rico is not the sharpest tool in the shed would be an understatement.
One day, while walking down the hall at school, Napoleon runs into Pedro Sanchez (played by Efren Ramirez), a Mexican immigrant who has recently started going to school there. They quickly become friends, and the different ways they try to help each other throughout the movie (some ways more successfully than others) are funny and charming. Pedro doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything; he immediately starts out by asking the most popular girl in school, Summer Wheatly (played by Haylie Duff), to the upcoming school dance. Not surprisingly, she turns him down, so he asks Deb (played by Tina Majorino). She accepts. Now keep in mind, Deb is a friend of Pedro and Napoleon, so Napoleon is a little unhappy that Pedro beat him to the punch. (The ways he occasionally compliments Deb almost had me in stitches.) But instead of dwelling on it, Napoleon decides to ask Trisha to the dance. Trisha is a friend of Summer Wheatly, so it seems like she’ll turn him down, but through a hilarious chain of events, she agrees to go with him. The scene where they’re driving to the dance has to be seen more than once.
Shortly afterwards, Pedro decides to run for high school president. Since Summer Wheatly is running against him, he has a serious uphill battle. With Deb’s help, Napoleon and Pedro launch a grassroots campaign. Napoleon’s Uncle Rico isn’t helping things, though. He starts out selling plastic dishware, but then he quickly graduates to selling female enhancement products. His potential customer base includes girls who go to Napoleon’s high school, including Deb, and he tells all of them that Napoleon referred them to him (which isn’t true). Needless to say, Napoleon’s life becomes very complicated and unpleasant as a result.
The last part of the movie is an absolute joy to watch. The scene where Pedro gives his campaign speech and Napoleon does an impromptu follow-up skit is a classic. After the movie ends, make sure you watch all the closing credits because there’s a bonus scene at the end.
This movie has already become a cult classic, and it deserves it. There are so many hilarious scenes and oddball quirks about this movie that I couldn’t possibly list them all in this review. Besides, I wouldn’t want to list them all here anyway. This is the kind of movie that just has to be seen. I could describe how much I enjoyed it until I’m blue in the face, but it’s not until you see it that you’ll understand.