A/V Room









Napolean Dynamite - Preview & US reaction

Preview by: Jack Foley

MEET Napoleon Dynamite... he wears his hair in a tight ginger afro, sports moon-boots and hammer-pants and plays a mean game of one-man tether ball. His fellow students at Preston High think he's a total nerd, but there's more to Napoleon than meets the eye.

This is the story of how he manages to turn his school upside down and make the wildest dreams of his friends come true.

A huge comedy hit in the US, reaching over $40 million at the box office, Naploean Dynamite marks the feature film debut of director, Jared Hess, who himself grew up in Preston, Idaho. The film is written by Jared and his wife, Jerusha Hess.

Napoleon lives with his Grandma (Sandy Martin) and his 30-year -old, unemployed brother Kip (Aaron Ruell), who spends his days looking for love on 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 (Haylie Duff); all the while making sure to feed Grandmas 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 piatas, cows and drawing to good use, but it is a surprise talent that leads the two to triumph in the end.

The comic cast includes Jon Heder as Napoleon, Jon Gries, Tina Majorino, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez and Haylie Duff.

The film was also one of the highlights of the recent London Film Festival.


US reaction

Critics in America were largely favourable towards the quirky comedy, which helped to generate the word of mouth needed to ensure the film's surprise box office success.

Leading the tributes was the Washington Post, which described the film as 'one of the most winning movie creations in years'.

Strong, too, was the New York Post, which referred to it as 'a little movie with a lot of heart and a lot of laughs'.

Rolling Stone predicted that 'you'll laugh till it hurts'.

While the Dallas Morning News wrote that 'even if you don't like the film and its freak-show depiction of small-town life, it's hard not to admire the commitment of Jon Heder's performance'.

But the New York Daily News had some reservations, stating that 'Hess' deadpan debut could have been so much better if only he'd had the courage to actually appreciate his loser characters'.

While Entertainment Weekly noted that 'the 2004 Sundance crowd-pleaser has got the tableaux suitable for Diane Arbus photos down pat, but no real interest in the people negotiating those life situations'.

And Variety went one worse, stating that 'there are lots of laughs for those who enjoy the sight of bottom dwellers doing stupid things that make them look even more idiotic'.

But Arizona Republic felt that it 'has more belly laughs than 10 studio-produced, star-vehicle comedies'.

While the Detroit News wrote that it is 'an independent take on a Hollywood tradition, undermined by its cliches but saved by its performances'.

And the Toronto Star opined: "It's not as hilarious as it thinks it is, and it's sometimes too weird for words, but it is often pretty funny."

But the final word goes to the Boston Globe, which concluded that it is 'an inspired dead-end stunt that keeps delivering snarky laughs far longer than it has any right to'.

The film opens in the UK in December.

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