The French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte was a man short in stature but tall in ambition. Napoleon Dynamite, on the other hand, the main character of the new movie with the same name, is certainly tall in height -- but not so much in anything else.
"Napoleon Dynamite" is more or less one long, 82-minute run-on joke about a geeky, nearsighted redhead (Jon Heder) and his inane Idaho life with his computer-nerd brother Kip, his burned-out former high school football star uncle Rico, and his pet llama.
According to Napoleon Bonaparte, "victory belongs to the most persevering." According to Napoleon Dynamite, "victory belongs to the one with the sweetest nunchuk skills."
With a limited vocabulary of "sweet" and "awesome," Napoleon goes through life with a short temper and daily beating from his school's jocks. Napoleon's horrible life begins to turn around as he meets the emotionless Pedro (Efren Ramirez) and falls in love with Deb, a portrait photographer, played by the former child actress Tina Majorino. The story begins to get interesting when Pedro decides to run against the stereotypical popular blond Summer ("with me it will be summer all year long!") for school president, and Napoleon goes all out to help Pedro win it. (Summer is played by Haylie Duff, Hilary's sister.)
While the characters in "Napoleon Dynamite" are completely one-dimensional, the absurdly silly dialogue makes up for it, as do the deadpan visual jokes which are plentiful and funny. "Napoleon Dynamite" also pays homage to the '80s, VH1's "I Love the '80s"-style, from bad power ballads blaring at a school dance to a discussion of Boondoggle to ugly hair.
While there are some excellent and memorable scenes (Rico having his picture taken, or the triumphant dance at the end of the film), "Napoleon Dynamite" pays heavy debt to other offbeat high school films such as "Ghost World" and "Rushmore." However, it is original in many aspects, and a breath of fresh air when compared to the summer comedies offered right now.
Max Pitegoff will be a senior at City Honors.
3 stars, PG-13