IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH JARED HESS DOUBLE-TAKE REVIEW: Our first stop in this fun adventure of a marathon is “Napoleon Dynamite,” which stars Jon Heder (Blades of Glory, Walt Before Mickey), Jon Gries (Taken, Men in Black), Aaron Ruell (On the Road with Judas, Think Tank), Efren Ramirez (Crank, Employee of the Month), Diedrich Bader (Office Space, Ice Age), Tina Majorino (Waterworld, Veronica Mars [TV series]), Sandy Martin (Speed, Marley & Me), Haylie Duff (Material Girls, Fear Island [TV Movie]), Trevor Snarr (Dadnapped [TV Movie], Minutemen [TV Movie]), and Shondrella Avery (End of Watch, Deja Vu). It is directed by Jared Hess (Nacho Libre, Don Verdean), who also co-wrote it with Jerusha Hess (Austenland, Gentlemen Broncos). A teenager living in Preston, Idaho by the name of Napoleon Dynamite (Heder) goes about another year in high school filled with new friends, elections, an uncle stuck in the past, and a brother who thinks nothing great of him.
The first film for Jared Hess to both co-write and direct happens to be a classic to America: “Napoleon Dynamite.” I’m gonna be quite frank with this review: this movie is one of my favorites. From the original-styled intro (which was awesome) to the secret, magical after-credits scene, this picture wows me on every level. No, it’s not a heavy drama that actually has a story nor is it bloated with action sequences to keep viewers awake. It is an original piece of cinema filled with realism and subtle comedy that I find to be genius. Before I get into my breakdown of this movie’s aspects, I want to discuss one thing that is brewing inside my melon: a lot of people supposedly don’t like Jared Hess’s films. If you happen to look up any of the titles that are in this marathon (Jared Hess’s only directorial works at the moment), none of them are given a winning score. It baffles me how “Napoleon Dynamite” would receive a 6.9/10 on IMDb when an almost similarly styled comedy, “Office Space,” gets a 7.8/10. It blows my mind, and it makes me furious. Wondering what went wrong, I looked up other people’s reviews of the film, so I can counter their reasons for hatred. The general consensus of haters said that this picture was boring, lacked a story, and wasn’t funny. I know, everyone has an opinion, and I respect that, but come on! When Kip (Ruell) wants to go to a sleazy dojo place and has Napoleon give him a ride there on his bike, who wouldn’t laugh at that!? Who wouldn’t laugh at Uncle Rico (Gries) embarrassing Napoleon at a dollar store, telling him to “go get some Pampers for you and your brother”? If you don’t have a taste for this style of comedy, then let me explore the other complaint of how it doesn’t have a story. Yes, there is no underlying story in this movie. It jumps from one scene to the next with nothing grand really happening. But get this: that’s life. I don’t know about you, but my life isn’t action-packed like a “Mission: Impossible” film or an adventure like any “Lord of the Rings” movies. It resembles “Napoleon Dynamite” more than anything. Life can be boring and uneventful, especially when you’re a high school student. This picture captures the essence of real life and how awkward it can be while at the same time injecting comedy to lighten the mood. And boy did it lighten it! Every scene that is displayed in this film can be stripped as a standalone clip to make someone laugh. People around me quote it because of how memorable it is. It is a truly fantastic movie. In breaking down some of this film’s aspects, I want to first talk about characters. Napoleon, Kip, Pedro (Ramirez), Uncle Rico, Deb (Magorino), Rex (Bader), Summer (Duff), Don (Snarr), Grandma (Martin). They are simple, yet genius creations to represent the real world. Not only that, but they are also hilarious. In one corner you could have Napoleon bragging about his model “girlfriend” while in another Kip is actually getting girls…but in online chat rooms. The characters make this release worth it and bring immense laughter. The acting is phenomenal in this as well. Jon Heder was a brilliant choice in casting for Napoleon and Jon Gries gave a memorable performance as Uncle Rico. They are two of my favorite characters, but the rest are just as lovable. Jared Hess’s directing in this was awesome and fresh. He captures scenes in the best angles. One scene that I found to be great was when Napoleon asked Pedro for some of his tater tots. When Pedro said yes, Napoleon scooped all of them up from his tray and crammed them into his pocket. The shot of his fingers putting them into his pocket was great, and it was referenced to again when he got them out during class. I bet you think I’m weird for saying how great a simple angle is, but it actually isn’t simple. So many directors lazily piece their films together, using basic angles to display bland stories. The directing is what adds flavor above all else, and it is like an imprint on a story. When the credits rolled, I read through all of the names, and I noticed that Jerusha Hess, Jared’s wife, actually did the costume design for the film. Something that made this film so original was the style. It looks like it belongs in the 80s with the clothes and colors, but yet it is set in the early 2000s. Jerusha did an amazing job with clothing from Rex’s American flag pants to Napoleon’s legendary “Vote for Pedro” shirt and moon boots. They are what bring these characters to life. The last part of this release that wraps the story all together is the musical score and soundtrack. Seeing Napoleon get on the bus in the beginning of the story to the sound of the electric keyboard is too good for its own good. Almost all of this picture’s musical score was techno, with it being both awesome and hilarious at the same time. The songs they chose to showcase in this film were perfect, like “Time After Time” and “The Promise.” Finding an issue in this film is rather hard. I’ve seen it over a billion times, and when watching it again I didn’t bust out laughing like I used to, which was a good thing since I can actually break down the story and its faults. But I couldn’t really find any, other than the fact that a lot of scenes feel thrown in randomly. That isn’t a huge problem with me, however, because it is these random moments that make me laugh as well as bring more realism to the plot. In the end, this movie had me grinning from ear to ear throughout its entirety. It’s such a spectacular picture that holds an original story; one that I can watch forever and ever without feeling bored. FINAL SCORE: 97%= Juicy Popcorn
This movie has been inducted into The Juicy Hall of Fame.
Here is the trailer:
Here is the short that spawned the feature film, “Peluca.” It is rather crude, but still has the same heart as “Napoleon Dynamite.” I had fun watching it: