Napoleon Dynamite - Film Review

Napoleon Dynamite and company are quirky and often bizarre, "....Will you bring me my Chapstick?  My lips hurt real bad!"  They face each challenge with zen-like acceptance, promising us all, in Pedro's words, that"...if you vote for me, all of your wildest dreams will come true."  "Sweet!"  A reassuring and humorous message doesn't hurt on a 2004 summer day.

There is no sign of the Duke of Wellington as "Napoleon Dynamite" enters the summer movie battleground  This indie movie, directed by Jared Hess, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures, with MTV joining the partnership shortly thereafter.

"Napoleon Dynamite" is a clever mix of the theater of the absurd with a "zen" flourish.   Just picture Uncle Rico, played with smarmy style by Jon Gries, wallowing in the eighties while ordering a time machine on the Internet.  Then check out Napoleon, brought to gangly life and grace by Jon Heder, caring for a pet llama and an over-thirty brother while his grandmother is recovering from a "Harold and Maude" mishap....all that is missing is the rhinoceros.

Napoleon lives in a high school world filled with the popular people and the usual array of bullies.  He moves through each scene with little affect and well placed "Napoleonisms" such as "Dang," "Sweet" and his dismissive, "Idiot."  His friendship with Pedro, played with a sense of compassion and kindness by Efrem Ramirez, is based on effortless understanding and mutual reassurance that " and thee are fine."  Eventually friendship, family and the possibility of love and sex add up to another triumph for the nerds - but not just another triumph of the nerds movie.  The outstanding cast, non sequitur editing, well chosen music and a sympathetic and understanding director have combined to create an instant cult classic.

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