Most comedies of today are nothing like the classics our parents and our parents' parents grew up with. We
have no Cary Grants, no Bob Hopes, no Marx Brothers. Wit and situational comedy has been substituted with sexual
and bathroom humor and the ever popular shock humor. What happened to good old-fashioned comedy?
Napoleon Dynamite is no classic from yesteryear by any means, but it is one of the quirkiest and
unique comedies you'll find below a PG-13 rating that isn't animated. Napoleon has had an admirable
box office run this Summer since its June 11th opening, moving in and out of theaters across the nation, succeeding
when big budget box office blockbusters flopped. It's a bizarre comedy about a high school student in Preston, Idaho
who comes from one of the most socially unstable families you could imagine and tries to survive living in a world
not quite ready for someone like him. Through a blank stare, Napoleon sees his world differently than most
and this is where the comedy comes to fruition.
Being a social outcast in school isn't territory I'm unfamiliar with, but Napoleon doesn't really seem to have
a problem with it. He's content drawing mythical creatures and sitting alone at lunch while most kids are busy
trying to get elected for class president or building up their popularity. Jon Heder is a fresh new face in acting
who embodies the title role incredibly. You feel for Napoleon's outcast status while laughing at his antics and
how he interacts with his family and peers. The film mostly plays out like a series of comedy sketches with one central
theme, but newcomer director Jared Hess does a nice job holding it all together. A few times, the viewer may wonder
what it is they're watching and what that has to do with anything else, but Hess ties up the loose ends and utilizes
some unique moments to build up his characters.
Napoleon Dynamite isn't a film for everyone. Some viewers won't like the random, dry humor the entire
film possesses or its utter silliness at times. But the world Hess creates for Napoleon is realistic yet almost
nonexistent as he mixes 70's and 80's clothing, styles, and trends into a modern age. The location of Idaho offers
some gorgeous backdrops and a remote setting that helps create the feeling that you're not liable to just run into
a character like this in your local mall... but they're out there.
I left the theater with mixed feelings about Napoleon Dynamite. With so many bizarre and wacky moments
with odd things being done and said, I found myself wondering what I was watching half the time. In retrospect, I
came to appreciate Hess's creativity and originality with Dynamite and his ability to create a comedy that
is genuinely funny without being especially offensive or vulgar. From random moments where Napoleon and his his friend
Pedro do "sweet jumps" with a bike off a tiny ramp to seeing Napoleon stuff a handful of tater tots into his pants pocket to eat later
in class, it's difficult not to laugh at the weird situations in the film.
Content is very mild with language just being a handful of "cr*ps" as well as mostly substitute words for
profanity like "flippin'", "freakin'", "jeez" and "gosh". The film makes the substitute words fashionable and
it made scenes funnier than if they were actually swearing. It's refreshing not to have profanity thrown at the
audience so frequently as most films do these days. The only other questionable content comes when Napoleon's
Uncle Rico thinks up a new get-rich-quick scheme where he attempts to sell bust-enhancers to Napoleon's classmates
called "Bust Must". While Rico is essentially doing this to make money and persuade girls to buy it, his goofy and
arrogant nature comes off a bit creepy at times (but the plan does ultimately fail, coming to a comical resolution).
All in all, I wasn't too sure what to make of Napoleon Dynamite after leaving the theater, but after
having a few days to digest the film, I can easily applaud Hess for a job well done in making one screwball comedy
that is benign enough for almost anyone to watch. A new spin on viewing the social status of high school students
through the eyes of one of the strangest characters to be on film in recent years, Napoleon Dynamite
is indeed worth a viewing.
- John DiBiase
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: As a get-rich-quick scheme of Uncle Rico's, he passes
out fliers for a new bust-enhancement product called "Bust Must". Later he tries to give a flier to Deb in a sort of
Vulgarity/Language: 6 "cr*p"
Violence: Merely comedic violence.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most
reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.