Movie Review

Napoleon Dynamite also known as “Bus otoko,” “Dynamiitti Napoleon”

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and language.

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
STAFF WRITER

Good
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Teen Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 26 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
June 11, 2004
DVD: October 19, 2006
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Teen Qs™ - Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.

Is interracial marriage biblical? Answer

Dancing in the Bible

Featuring: Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite)

Jon Gries (Uncle Rico), Aaron Ruell (Kip), Efren Ramirez (Pedro), Diedrich Bader (Rex), Tina Majorino (Deb), Sandy Martin (Grandma), Haylie Duff (Summer Wheatly), Trevor Snarr (Don), Shondrella Avery (Lafawnduh), Bracken Johnson (Randy), Carmen Brady (Starla), Ellen Dubin (Ilene), J.C. Cunningham (Jock #1), James Stevens (Jock #2—as James Smooth), Brian Petersen (Lance), Brett Taylor (Nathan), Tom Lefler (Principal Svadean), Elizabeth Miklavcic (Renae), Scott Thomas (Sheldon), more »
Director: Jared Hess
Producer: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Paramount Pictures, MTV Films, Access Films, Jeremy Coon, Sean Covel, Frederick Wedler, Jory Weitz, Chris Wyatt
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

“He’s out to prove he’s got nothing to prove.”

Expecting a film about the nineteenth century French emperor? If so, the movie could entail a fabricated story about how the fascist leader tried unsuccessfully to invent explosives. But the title of that flick would be “Napoleon Blownapart.” No, Napoleon Dynamite is a totally new, modern character, and as authentic and uniquely drawn as the film that is named after him. In this forum, you’ll be infused with independent cinema and explode with laughter.

Perhaps adhering to the idea that it’s “chic to be geek,” newbe director, Jared Hess, has spared no expense in celebrating his anti-hero, Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), a completely socially inept high school student in a small Idahoan town. Napoleon lives with his gruff, four-wheeling grandmother (Sandy Martin) and his thirty-two year old effeminate brother, Kip (Aaron Ruell), and is the epitome of the passé idea of “nerd.” Centered around typical teenage issues involving high school dances, student government elections and frustrated adolescent love, the uncomplicated plot is clearly a platform to highlight the quirkoholic character Napoleon.

As conventional as some of the story choices are, they work, and the film is so well built with other refreshingly original choices that it’s nothing to scoff at. Beyond his name, Napoleon amuses us with his usual abrasive tone and fantastic stories. In the locker room, the jocks pick on him and ask what he did last summer. He irritatingly replies, “I told you, I was hunting wolverines with my uncle in Alaska!” Also entertaining is Kip’s relationship with his Internet girlfriend, LaFawnduh (Shondrella Avery), and Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), who comes to be guardian over Kip and Napoleon while their grandma is away. And their karate lesson at the local dojo gives us more to laugh at.

As raw as this film is, the cleanliness is quite incomparable to most contemporary comedies. At no point was any cuss word detected. The closest it comes is when Napoleon is frustrated and adds in a “freakin’” or “flippin’” to what he says. The most offensive thing might be a business Uncle Rico starts later, working with breast enhancers. It is only mentioned a couple of times and over the course of the film as we have learned to dislike Uncle Rico, our distaste for him is associated with this business. This film does not try to be anything other than it is: a newfangled, straightforward comedy to incite honest laughter.

With blatant attempts to make us laugh, there are a few moments where we hit our head on the ceiling of the humor. Still, the reason we can find Napoleon so amusing is because, to some degree, we might identify with being the outcast or with the awkward adolescent era of our lives. Underneath all of the mockery, we can have sympathy for people like Napoleon struggling to find acceptance and their place in this world. Where Gus van Saint’s “Elephant” might be a depiction of the tragedy of high school misfits, “Napoleon Dynamite” is the comedy. And the ending is capped off with a euphoric experience that leaves you uplifted.

Violence: None / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “From Preston, Idaho comes Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), a new kind of hero complete with a tight red ’fro, some sweet moon boots, and skills that can’t be topped. Napoleon lives with his Grandma (Sandy Martin) and his 30-year-old, unemployed brother Kip (Aaron Ruell), who spends his days looking for love in Internet chat rooms. When Grandma hits the road on her quad runner, Napoleon and Kip’s meddling Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) comes to town to stay with them and ruin their lives.

Napoleon is left to his own devices to impress the chicks at school and help his new best friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) win the election for Student Body President against the stuck-up Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff); all the while making sure to feed Grandma’s pet llama Tina, and avoiding association with Uncle Rico and the herbal breast enhancers he sells door to door. Napoleon and Pedro put their skills and knowledge of piñatas, cows and drawing to good use, but it is a surprise talent that leads the two to triumph in the end.”

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—A friend of mine took me to see this film for free at an advance screening, but I’d gladly pay money to see it again. I haven’t laughed so hard consistently throughout a movie in a very long time. If you were a socially inept dork in high school (like myself) or knew the ones who were, this movie will totally hit home with you. However, rather than deliberately making fun at the foibles of Napoleon, his quirky family and his equally quirky friends, there is a genuine sweetness that runs throughout the film to its charming conclusion, which left me smiling. Even the opening credits, which use plates of food and various school supplies to reveal the names of the cast and crew, is wonderfully inventive. (The Idaho locations are also a nice change of pace from what you normally see in a movie, and it really makes the film seem real.) There are no big life lessons to be learned here, other than the fact you can find true love no matter how dorky or socially inept you might be. One last thing—there is no foul language in this film at all, which I appreciated. “Napoleon Dynamite” has the same type of knowing, offbeat humor as “Welcome to the Dollhouse” or “The Royal Tenenbaums,” but without those films’ dark, sadistic undertones. I loved it.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Christopher, age 39
Positive—A low-budget, no-stars, Wes Anderson film. Very, very funny, very little to be offended at (there is some suggested mistreatment of animals). This is one of those films that gets funnier as you watch it, quote it, and rewatch it over and over. So funny that you hardly realize that the story is thin, and the budget is so low.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Joe, age 29
Positive—I am 40 years old. My 20 year old daughter brought this movie home, and I fully expected to hate it and think it was stupid. Well, a strange thing happened. I found it so stupid it’s funny. I’m not sure which part I liked best. Napoleons mannerisms and quirks are just really funny. I’ve now watched it about 7 times. My daughter will throw it on, and I’ll sit there and watch it again and again. I RARELY watch a movie twice, but as someone else stated, the more you watch it the funnier it is.

Napoleon’s character in itself is quite unique and therefore refreshing. There’s nothing cliche about him.

I wasn’t offended with the uncle selling the breast cream because the uncle is an unlikeable character and all the characters thought he was an idiot for trying to sell it.

If you rent it, let the credits roll and wait for the last scene which occurs AFTER the credits (kind of surprise I noticed on the 4th or 5th viewing). I think we should all go out and buy or rent this movie and send Hollywood a message that movies with NO foul language and NO sex do sell!
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Jen, age 40
Positive—This was a wonderful film about being a nerd in school. I was that nerd, so I was able to relate to Napoleon’s plight in being accepted for who he was. To paraphrase another movie review, he embraces his nerdiness and is not ashamed of it. He just wants to be accepted by the in-crowd. It’s also funny, too.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Shannon H., age 23
Neutral
Neutral—I took some youth from my church to see this movie. They laughed hard and loud. They want me to take them again. The movie had only mild slang words and no curse words. I was glad that a movie was made with no bad language or nudity. This movie is for youth!
My Ratings: [Good/1]
—Rev. Nate Grisham, age 30
Negative
Negative—This was the dumbest movie my wife and I have seen in a long, long time. The main character, Napoleon Dynamite, is totally self-absorbed and lame brained. None of the other characters are engaging or admirable. The acting is sophomoric and the plot is thinner than a bargain store hankie. What passes for humor is often so stilted and unimaginative it truly dulls the senses. The greatest appeal this movie might hold for many is its generally inoffensive content.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/2]
—Chuck Browning, age 39
Negative—…I sent my 2 teenage sons and 2 friends to see this movie. When I went to pick them up I expected to see BIG smiles on their faces, but their expressions were anything but. They all thought it was the worst movie they had ever seen and that it was a complete waste of money. They even felt that THEY should have paid to watch it! Oh well…
My Ratings: [Good/1]
—Gary Hugo, age 48
Negative—Save on the high ticket prices at the theatre and wait until it hits the video stores. We went to see this movie on the recommendation of my 15 year old niece who enjoys the same type of comedy as my husband. We caught ourselves laughing because we listened to her. I expected it to be stupid humor like “Dumb and Dumber” (only clean)…Morally the only thing I found slightly offensive was the Uncle’s “Bust Must” business.
My Ratings: [Good/2]
—Rosa, age 38
Negative—…This movie made me squirm. It may have been clean on the outside, but it seemed to have sadness and dysfunction running throughout. The characters were all unhappy. Everyone, even the adults, were misfits and self-centered. There was no joy or life in them. The best nerds in high school in my set were happy nerdy people. The uncle made me greatly uncomfortable when he would close the door behind him while going in the homes of women. One scene where he told Napolean to wait outside made me feel really creepy. Didn’t anyone else wonder what was going on inside? I think his character was a predator, eventually interested in the younger set. HOW CREEPY! I would rather have swearing in a movie with a real dilemna, problem solving, unity, kindness, good choice/bad choices, respect… anything but this numb, loser of a movie. As Christians we shouldn’t have to settle for no swearing and no sex to call it a good movie. We deserve and should demand better.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Mary, age 43
Negative—Based on a few of the reviews, my wife watched this tale of an awkward teenager growing coming into his own. The overall message that good and bad people receive a reward according to their deeds is a relevant in our society. However, the characters are heavily stereotyped. The movie shows Mexicans as Catholic, low-rider driving, shaved head, dim-witted misfits who wear “wife beater” t-shirts or dress in dated western attired. As for the people of Idaho, several of the characters are portrayed as one-dimensional, dumb, backwards, quaint or otherwise abnormal. Napoleon’s family seems quite dysfunctional, dependent, and emotionally handicapped, and the characters that enter the story, are stereotyped and quirky. The truly funny moments are rare. All in all, we were offended by the heavy stereotyping and mocking of religion and ethnic culture.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Christian K., age 38 (USA)
Comments from young people
Neutral—The best part of this movie was the tiny clip after the credits roll when Napoleon is on a horse. This movie really had no plot, so the only humor was situational. This movie shouldn’t offend anyone but it can get quite dull. I was expecting to leave with a stomach ache from laughing, instead it was from the candy.
My Ratings: [Good/2]
—Katie R., age 17
Positive—Napoleon Dynamite is the most “odd” film I have seen since “Big Fish.” The storyline is rather random, and a main theme is not readily apparent, but I realized at the end of the movie that the moviemakers were not trying to make a blockbuster, they were trying to let the audience live in Napoleon’s shoes and in his world for an hour and a half. They did a wonderful job doing that. There is no backstory involved in this film; all the characters are strangers when you meet them. However, by the end of the movie I felt that the actors and director had done a good job developing each character; although some might feel that the characters were underdeveloped or thin, I felt (by the end of the movie) that I knew each one well. If someone were to ask me “what would Napoleon do in this situation,” I would know the answer.

I didn’t like all the slang Napoleon used (cr*p, friggin, flippin…) and there was more of that than I expected. However, I appreciated the positive elements of this film a LOT! 1.) Napoleon is friendly to new kids, he is loyal to his friends and helps them out when they are in need. 2.) It is made quite clear that being poular and pretty do not guarantee success. Superficiality is not glorified in any way. 3.) Some of the real effects of bullying (especially bullying today) are shown when Napoleon gets picked on. The audience (and both bullied and bulliers will most likely be watching) see how getting picked on affects Napoleon and his friends. Since this whole movie is about having the audience live in Napoleon’s shoes for a time, by the end of the movie, you get a feeling for what it feels like to get picked on and ridiculed.

All things considered, I would recommend “Napoleon Dynamite.” (But be prepared for a slower-paced, more “random” movie… i.e, if your in the mood for something like “Pirates of the Carribbean,” this isn’t the movie to rent!)
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Charlotte, age 17
Positive—…This is THE most hilarious movie I’ve ever seen in my entire life!! There is nothing offensive in it at ALL! It’s the first movie I’ve seen in a long time that didn’t have cussing in it, and was like CLEAN! I couldn’t stop a laughing throughout the whole thing! But, it’s a weird kinda humor, so a lot of people won’t think it’s funny. You just have to be one of those people that laugh at everything and are easily amused and you’ll LOVE it!!…
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Shara, age 15
Positive—I saw this movie and I laughed SO hard… Teenagers will probably like it better than adults… But this is a hilarious movie!
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Terry Hicks, age 13
Positive—I must say, after the sixth time I still love this movie. I think that if you find this movie not funny or un-amusing than you have no idea what goes on in schools these days. I promise you that every child and/or teen acts this way out of kidding around… unless of course there is no sense of humor. This is what makes the movie so funny, I know people like that, and it totally made sense, I could see how you could say this movie isn’t good or funny, but as …a pastor’s daughter in Miami, especially Miami, this is the kind of humor we need. “Dumb and Dumber” was my favorite movie despite the dirty comments and slight sexuality. The fact that “Napoleon Dynamite” beat that was a big change, and I’m proud to say that. I believe that if there are more movies like this we won’t need movies that are dirty and disgusting to make us laugh anymore… I think it’s safe to say that this is a clean movie…
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Emily, age 14
Neutral—This movie is really dumb. It has some funny moments but other than that this movie was so boring! There was seemed to be really no point in the movie. I felt like I wasted my money on such a dumb movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/2]
—HI, age 13
Positive—I loved this movie! Preteens and teenagers are… likely to enjoy this movie than adults and kids. I highly recommend this movie. But if you hate movies with absolutly no plot (something like Monty Python and the Holy Grail), I wouldn’t waste your money. It all depends on what kind of humor you’re in to.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Taylor Telenick, age 13
Positive—I saw this movie yesterday with my brother, and we both thought it was really funny. I laughed so hard I cried. We can’t wait till it comes out on vidio so we can buy it. If you are looking for a hilarious movie to go see. You should see this one.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Kenzie C., age 13
Positive—All I have to say is: Wow. Not only was this film remarkable in its simplicity, but Napoleon Dynamite left me with a sore jaw and cramped side from laughing so hard. The beautiful thing is that I laughed at something so unconventional compared to today’s popular crude style of comedy, and it felt good.
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Matt Morley, age 17
Positive—This is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. It has spunk, originality, and humor. it doesn’t play off old tired out jokes. All of the humor is fresh and funny. The acting, especially by Jon Heber who plays Napoleon, is superb. All of the characters are true to life and make you want to know mroe about them. The movie isn’t like other movies for a major reason; it really has no plot. It simply shows Napoleon doing what he does best: being himself. He shows us that we are all special no matter how hip or uncool we may be. That is a message that God wants us to know as well. Napoleon didn’t follow the crowd, he stayed true to what he believed. Just the same, we must follow what God’s standards are, not those of a secular society. This is a masterpiece!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Mariette, age 14
Positive—When I saw the preview to this movie I knew it was a must see movie. I was right, my mom, my brother and I saw this movie and we almost laughed through the whole thing. Younger kids might not understand the teen-life comedy, but for teens and adults it is a very good hilarious movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Miles, age 13
Positive—I first thought this was really dumb. Later, I found myself witnessing similar dysfunctional behavior (but funny) in people on the street. That made me want to see it again. And, if you folks who hated it the first time do the same, this “weird” movie grows on you, and actually becomes funnier each time.

You have to be thankful there is not one misuse of our Father’s or Savior’s names, and for that alone, coming from Hollywood, it deserves praise. There’s an unspoken theory where many writers and producers actually use a database showing what movies with what words were “tolerated” by Christians. From that, “some of them” elect to either continue to use them, or refrain or diminish their use. Basically it amounts to this, and whether the unspoken rule is true or not, it only makes sense… If any movie full of the blasphemous (and to me painful to hear) misuses of my Savior’s name makes a smash at the box office, it’s only natural to think, there had to be a lot of Christians in attendance? To them, that translates to; “they (we) don’t care, my bottom line wasn’t hurt, let’s do it again!” Just imagine if we truly respected Heaven’s precious and Holy names across the board and never bought a single ticket to any of them? You can bet by now, Hollywood would have gotten the opposite message they obviously have today, since it doesn’t seem to bother anyone today. WOW! We all know what happens when God is given the “least we can do” in respecting His Name. Once the Holy Names of God and Christ Jesus are given the respect they are so deserving of, the spiritual idea of “their” Holiness returns - even if Hollywood producers are unbelievers, Holy Spirit begins an amazing work in their hearts that they don’t even realize is happening.

Imagine Hollywood producers saying to themselves; “I can’t have that in there,” and the spiritual/psychological effect it would have? Maybe we should have a new attitude that says; “I’m ‘entertained’ when the world is not ‘entertained’ by mocking my Jesus?” For that alone, any nitpicking of weird stereotyping (which it wasn’t) in Napoleon gets an A+++, here, and I bet in Heaven!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—BILL, age 12 (USA)
Movie Critics
…There are no life-altering conflicts, and very little learning, growing or hugging. It’s one of the most agreeable, most likable films I’ve seen in a while. I noticed that even when I wasn’t laughing, I was still smiling, happy just to be there…
—eFilmCritic.com
…If Wes Anderson had directed “Dumb and Dumberer,” it would have been a lot like “Napoleon Dynamite.”…
—Annlee Ellingson, BoxOffice.Com
…Napoleon Dynamite should be required therapy for anyone with a self-image problem…
—James Berardinelli, Reel Views
…a charming and often hilarious comedy about the ultimate high school nerd…
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post