Teenage misfit Napoleon (Heder) marches to the beat of his own drum – a ginger, frizzy-haired teen with down-turned mouth, unattractive specs and quirky fashion sense, he lives with his grandmother and older brother in a tatty house in the run-down small town of Preston, Idaho, and sets himself apart from the cool crowd with his wild tales (when asked how he spent the summer he replies, ‘I spent it with my uncle in Alaska, hunting wolverines!’). His family is equally bizarre – brother Kip is intent on marrying a woman he has only conversed with in chatrooms, while Uncle Rico dreams of building a time machine so he can go back to his teenage years and relive football glory – but Napoleon believes he is some sort of misunderstood hero, so he takes it upon himself to groom new-kid-in-school Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for school president.
Often funny in the strangest of ways – you’ll honestly laugh as the school bus passes a field just as the farmer is shooting a cow – this is a quirky slice of American life that hits in some terrific scenes (Napoleon dancing on stage being one of the most memorable) but occasionally misses, too: while Napoleon is brilliantly played by Heder, he’s often quite difficult to like, making it hard to root for him. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive oddity from writer/director Jared Hess (who wrote the screenplay with his wife, Jerusha) that will have you chortling at the sheer madness of it all.
Is Napoleon Dynamite suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...