Saturday, January 01, 2005

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE - quirky to the point of genius

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE is, I suspect, the kind of movie that you either love or hate. But for me, this movie is kooky, quirky and eccentric to the point of genius. It is sweet, hopeful and yet never schmaltzy or obvious. And it's key message: that there is someone out there for all of us, is a fantastic way to start the year. The movie is a super low-budget indie flick by Jared Hess. And I mean Indie in the fullest sense of the word: from the eccentric characters in boon-dock America, to the pop-culture references, to the focus on the geeks and freaks at High School, to the cooler than thou sound-track, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE wears its Indie heart on its sleeve. However, all these features are never grating and, compared to some recent movies, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE never feels like it is trying too hard. Indeed, the story seems to unwind without effort and enchant us. The eponymous hero is a high school nerd, with big glasses, big teeth and a righteous 'fro. He says "gosh" a lot, draws cartoons of cross-breed animals, and is the star of the movie in his mind To wit, 'You know, there's like a butt-load of gangs at this school. This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bo staff." Genius. Napoleon is brought to life in a comic performance of real subtelty and brilliance by newbie Jon Heder. I have no doubt that his dance routine is destined to become as famous as Ricky Gervais' routine in British cult classic, THE OFFICE. The story, such as it is, follows Napoleon as he gets his first girlfriend, who is equally geeky. We also see Napoleon's brother Kip hook up with an internet date and Napoleon help his best mate, Pedro, get the student presidency. What links all these stories is the triumph of outsiders over the conventional without compromise. Like I said, this movie is one you either love or hate so it's hard to recommend. But if you find that off-beat comedy sets you giggling, you should check it out.

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE played at Sundance and London 2004 and is currently on release in the UK. It opens in Germany on May 18th 2005.

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