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Napoleon Dynamite

He's out to prove he's got nothing to prove. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Napoleon Dynamite

My impression is that Napoleon Dynamite was conceived as Saved by the Bell for The Office generation. I mean, how would Screech really have been treated by the jocks and hunnies - shunned and debased is right. The story follows Dynamite as he attempts to get his moustachioed best friend Pedro (Ramirez) elected student president against the fierce competition of the preppy Summer Wheatley (Duff). Although we may not understand Dynamite we will him toward greatness, despite his awkward situation. It is easy to appreciate his flashes of idiosyncratic, monotone wisdom such as; "Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills, you know like nunchuck skills, bowhawk skills, computer hacking skills". As long as you're the type that enjoys a good piece of nostalgia which is full of heart you'll be unable to resist this trip down memory lane. This is a teen comedy for people sick of the current gross out or sappy sentimental style, its brilliance comes from being an American movie as dry as a Ryvita in the desert.

The eponymous protagonist is surrounded by a supporting cast of embarrassingly realistic oddballs (though none more out-there than Dynamite himself), including his sad computer chat-room loving brother and his dissatisfied pushy uncle Rico (Gries). The cast are faultless and the script fantastic, if slightly episodic though none the worse for it. It is hard to assign a genre to Napoleon Dynamite, as brilliant use is made of pacing; testing the limits of awkwardness and indicating that this is a (late) coming of age film, yet the touching closeness of Napoleon and Pedro makes this more of a buddy film.

Surprisingly, the true merit of this film isn't its beautifully drawn characters but the fact that it is a period piece where everything cringeworthy from the 80's is back and being celebrated for its crappyness. The costumes are great, especially Napoleon's brown flared suit, which he wears to the prom. This is a film that celebrates individuality and is itself refreshingly unique at a time when many American films are formulaic and unoriginal.

Alastair Binnie

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Spring Term (35mm)