Napoleon Dynamite

Film, Comedy
Napoleon Dynamite

For hit-hungry film distributors seeking a bargain at the annual Sundance Film Festival (where this indie gem premiered in January), this is exactly the kind of movie to set their hearts fluttering. Made for under $500,000, Hess’s debut feature has, to date, taken more than $43 million at the US box office. It’s a handsome payout, and proof that there is hope for small American filmmakers looking to compete with their big budget compatriots.

Not that any such cynical profiteering informed 25-year-old Hess’s original gameplan: to turn his hit short film, ‘Peluca’, a zero-budget, comic take on his small hometown of Preston, Idaho, into a full-length, subversive skit on the typical high-school comedy. Napoleon (Jon Heder) is our focus: a teenage boy so unattractive, so awkward, so out-of-sync, so damn wrong that he ultimately endears himself as an outlaw and fully-fledged hero. The obvious parallel is Dawn Wiener in Todd Solondz’s much superior ‘Welcome to the Dollhouse’. Like Dawn, Napoleon does himself no favours. He wears moon boots and bad T-shirts; he likes to sketch unicorns and ‘ligers’ (an imagined hybrid of a lion and a tiger); and he doesn’t know the first thing about friendship or romance. His dysfunctional family is equally bad: older brother Kip has the worst moustache in history and spends all day on internet dating sites, while Uncle Rico is a failing door-to-door salesman whose big dream is to return to 1982 and resurrect his stalled football career. It’s a cast of brilliant caricatures, and as such recalls the films of Wes Anderson, especially ‘Rushmore’.

Admittedly, much of the humour is very silly – feeding on sight gags and slapstick – and not all of it hits the mark. But there’s a serious side too. The embarrassments of school and teenage life are up there to squirm at in both shame and horror.

By: DC

Release details

Rated: PG
Release date: Friday December 3 2004
Duration: 85 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jared Hess
Screenwriter: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess
Cast: Jon Heder
Jon Gries
Aaron Ruell
Efren Ramirez
Diedrich Bader
Tina Majorino
Haylie Duff

Average User Rating

4.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
1 person listening

This is one of the few movies that I can watch over and over again.  Just seeing his facial expressions is enough for me and when he celebrates identifying the mystery substance in a glass of milk.

It is a random and odd film, but works really well, there are so many good moments in it, you just have to watch it.

We go to Butlins at Minehead every Easter and after having discovered this DVD in a charity shop in town several years ago, it is our tradition to take it with us and watch every year.


First of all I can't believe this was made 12 years ago. WTF. Now that's out of the way, let's talk Napoleon D. This film was probably one of the first films my friends and I got truly obsessed with (alongside Superbad and Road Trip, perhaps). It's weird, it's quirky but mainly it's just dry AF and seriously funny. Not one to miss. 

An incredibly funny high school comedy, with great characters and amazing dialogue. It is quite impossible to dislike the character Napoleon.