Napoleon Dynamite Review

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Preston, Idaho's most curious resident, Napoleon Dynamite (Heder), lives with his grandmother, cruises chat rooms for girls, and vows to help his best friend, Pedro (Efren Ramirez), snatch the Student Body President title from mean teen Summer.

★★★★★

Picture a redhead so carroty he makes Chris Evans look blond. Add a vacantly sagging jaw, half-closed eyes and the gait of an orang-utan, and you have Napoleon Dynamite, an appropriate title character for such a self-consciously bizarro indie comedy.

Director/co-writer Jared Hess revels in sketching middle-American misfits, and he does it well. Napoleon's brother is a pale chat room obsessive; his uncle is an ageing Chuck Norris-a-like forever reliving his high school football glory days. The entire town, meanwhile, seems stuck in an '80s timewarp, the kind of place a form of self-defence known as 'Rex Kwon Do' - promoted by a mulleted man called Rex - can gain a following.

Much of the comedy comes from the fact that everyone believes they're really cool dudes. Yet they're not all that likeable, Napoleon himself having a petulant streak that makes him tough to root for. The near-absence of plot doesn't help, as Napoleon meanders through intensely quirky set-pieces without any sense that this is taking us anywhere.

Still, the vast, lonely Idaho landscapes are beautifully shot and you can't deny the characters' indelibility, making this a flawed but credible debut for Hess that should replicate its culty Stateside popularity over here.

As long as you don't mind making fun of the afflicted, there are some killer comic moments.