Napoleon Dynamite

Year: 2004
Directed By: Jared Hess
Written By: Jared and Jerusha Hess


I was in college when this movie came out, and I cannot stress enough how much of a hit it was with my generation at the time. I specifically remember a stretch of college where it seemed like everybody was talking about Napoleon Dynamite.  I hadn’t seen it.  In a stubborn stance I didn’t watch it because it was an MTV film and I had decided recently that I had outgrown the network. I still feel like that but it wasn’t long until I realized it was the wrong impression to stubbornly hold onto in the case of this film.  This movie is so delightfully weird, does anybody else catch the awkward nature of high school quite like Napoleon Dynamite?

I love this image of Idaho, ten years behind the rest of the country and just taking things one day at a time.  For years Amber has argued with me that this movie was set in the 90’s, because of the clothing styles, trapper keepers, side ponytails, cassette players, and so on.  It’s not though, you see the date on Napoleon’s student ID in the beginning of the film.  Idaho just looks like the 1990s in 2004 because culture is just making its way out there slowly.  Maybe I’m wrong, I’ve spent my whole life in the southeast and Idaho is an enigma to us all down here.  Ask a local around here what they know about Idaho and you are doubtful to get more than potatoes and Boise St.

Maybe one day I can find out for myself what Idaho is actually like but until then I am content to imagine it’s like what we see in this film.  A land more isolated where things are a little bit behind and a little bit different. Not that there is anything wrong with that.  The things I hear about that part of the country are that they live much more relaxed lives and I at least hope that it true. I doubt the high school kids all appear to be in their thirties but that’s part of the strange that makes this movie so appealing.

I’ve read that Jon Heder played this part for only $1,000.  If that is correct it’s a shame because as great as he did playing this part I do think it inhibited him in his career later on. Looking over his filmography it appears like he has been really busy over the past year or so but he hasn’t done anything as significant as this film since. As Napoleon Dynamite he is the very definition of awkward but he manages to pull it off in such a comedic fashion.  What I love the most is how he just runs away so suddenly and with such vigor.  The guy is just so exceptionally weird and it’s awesome.

I was recently asked to name a fiction athlete in a fantasy football scenario.  I blanked and had nobody coming to mind and settled for the first thing that popped in.  I said Uncle Rico, because he just needs a chance. In that scenario you would want someone who believes in himself, check (he’s willing to put money on the fact he can throw a football over a mountain).  You’d want someone who honed his talents, check (love the videos he makes of himself and the enthusiasm he has in them).  You want someone willing to go the extra mile, check (the guy fried his balls trying to travel back in time for another chance to play). Uncle Rico just needs that shot, I’d put him in whatever fantasy game exists and let him win me state.

This movie has a lot of weird characters I find endearing but my favorite is the cage fighter in training Kip.  Who else can rock roller stakes like that? Rex-Kwon-Do can brag about his muscle woman all he wants but Kip brought home “La Fawnduh.”  I think that relationship adds a lot of comedy into the film but I think the scene after the credits was overkill.  It was shot after the movie was finished when it became clear that it would catch on.  The scene cost half as much as the entire film and you can see that in the production of the scene.  I laughed at the ceremony until Napoleon rides up on the horse, it was a bit much.

I don’t love this movie and I don’t like it like I did 10 years ago but it is still fun to revisit occasionally.  I know a lot of people who watch it and simply don’t get it.  There’s nothing to get though. It’s just a weird and awkward comedy that is funny because it is unique.  Many people heard all the fuss over the movie and went in expecting something knee slapping funny but that’s not this one.  This is definitely the kind of movie you don’t want to sit down to expecting more than it will deliver.  It is what it is and you have to appreciate it for what it is.  This is a short movie so I would say it is worth your time but if you haven’t seen it I wouldn’t make any special effort.


I still just love this movie so much. So many people don’t get it. They don’t understand what makes it so funny. I honestly don’t have a magical answer for why it is was so popular, or why I still find it hilarious, but it’s just that. Hilarious. I can’t even count how many times I have seen this movie. It used to play on MTV all the time when I was in college, and like everyone else in the country, all of my friends and coworkers were spouting out lines like crazy.


This. I love this. This couldn’t be a better foreshadowing for the movie. It’s very edgy and relates to the target audience, which is obviously the same as MTV. MTV has always had really great designers that are constantly breaking the rules. You get an immediate look at Napoleon, and the character he probably is. He also happens to doodle, scoring a date to the dance by drawing a sweet picture of a girl from school. The sketching is also incorporated in the typography of the title, which I think works incredibly. This handwriting will always be Napoleon Dynamite in my mind; it has become a logo-like mark over the years.

I also want to note that the intro credits in this movie is one of the better ones I have ever seen. I just remember finding it fresh and original. Also, how many times did they have to try and write the ones done in condiments.














NEXT MOVIE: Natural Born Killers (1994)

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