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Napoleon Dynamite

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Napoleon Dynamite

Starring: Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez
Director: Jared Hess
Rated: PG
RunTime: 86 Minutes
Release Date: June 2004
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Jonathan Gries, Aaron Ruell, Tina Majorino, Haylie Duff, Ellen Dubin, Emily Kennard, Sandy Martin, Diedrich Bader, Shondrella Avery

Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

Settling comfortably into the high-school angst genre, 24 year-old filmmaker Jared Hess' low-budget comedy, which was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, focuses on losers.

Technically, it's a sequel. Actor Jon Heder played the same deadpan, socially-inept character, then named Seth, in a 2001 Brigham Young University student short called "Peluca." But since its audiences were sparse, few will realize that Seth has morphed into Napoleon Dynamite.

Nerdy, bespectacled Napoleon lives in rural Preston, Idaho, with his energetic grandmother (Sandy Martin), her pet llama, and Kip (Aaron Ruell), his slacker older brother who searches for love in Internet chatrooms. When he's not drawing "ligers" (lion/tiger), Napoleon's friends are two other outcasts: Deb (Tina Majorino), an aspiring photographer and Pedro (Enfen Ramiriz), a shy Mexican transfer student who impulsively decides to run for class president against the popular prom queen (Haylie Duff, Hilary's sister). Complications arise when Grandma cracks her coccyx in a dirt bike accident and macho Uncle Rico (John Gries) comes to stay with them. He's a door-to-door salesman/con man who's wistfully obsessed with a time-travel machine he bought over the Internet in hopes of re-visiting a fateful football game back in 1982.

Reminiscent of Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused" and Wes Anderson's "Rushmore," this quirky, episodic homage to dim-witted, awkward, ostracized geeks is certainly a promising feature film debut. Jared Hess, his screenwriter wife Jerusha and cinematographer Munn Powell are just beginning their cinematic journey. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Napoleon Dynamite" is a curiously charming 6. It's an outlandish, goofy diversion.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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