I watched Napoleon Dynamite and wasn't expecting to like it as I thought it was going to be another teen comedy in the ilk of American Pie, or some other excruciatingly drawn out brain-dead flick.
But I was really surprised. I watched it and I thought it was okay. Then the next day I kept remembering scenes, the character of Napoleon Dynamite grew on me and I ended up having to watch it again. The same thing happened with my missus, she thought it was a pretty average film, but something about it really appealed to her and now it's one of her all time favourites!
This is a story about the kid at school who was a bit weird, socially awkward and a bit slow. Nobody knows much about his actual life, they just hear his ludicrous stories and mock him. The film explores the home life of Napoleon and his less than conventional family.
The comedy is offbeat, and tends to come from Napoleon's soft cursing ("Gosh!") and physical manner. His loose dangling arms and weird running add to the oddness of the character. There's not one poor performance in the film, but Jon Heder's portrayal of the lovable geek is utterly convincing. And there's the `dance scene' - something which has to be seen to be believed, pure cinematic gold!
When Pedro, a Mexican immigrant comes to the school, it is Napoleon who befriends him, and together they work to get Pedro elected as class president, at the same time there's a romantic interest with Debs - slightly more switched on, but still a social outcast. The dynamic between the three is often awkward, but there's a sense of understanding between them, a feeling that they have found a group of their own to belong to.
There's warmth to Napoleon Dynamite, you feel as though the writers and the production team were really fond of the character and his family. They all exist in very independent worlds, but sheltered by a collective delusion. Napoleon imagines he's a lethal ninja fighter ("who's the only one here who knows the illegal ninja moves from the government?"), his brother spends all his time in internet chat rooms and despite his weedy appearance says he's training to be a professional fighter, and his uncle is convinced that he will be a sporting hero - even buying a time machine from e-bay to try to get his career re-started!
In a nutshell: Some find it hilarious, some find it mildly amusing - I'm somewhere in the middle, but either way it captivates me. I don't know what it is about Napoleon Dynamite that makes it such a great film, maybe it's because despite the outrageous characters - it is still more true to life than most other Hollywood films set in high school. Napoleon is a caricature, but you know that there are more people out in the world like him than there are middle-class, American, glamorous, bright-white-teeth-brigade 2D High school students. You are left wanting more, and with this DVD release you get just that - more scenes, and on top of all the extras you get the short film `Peluca' - on which this full length feature was based (it's less than ten minutes but you can see where some aspects of the film have come from). The extras get an extra star from me, which is why I give this five stars in total.