- Napoleon Dynamite
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jared Hess
Produced by Jeremy Coon
Sean C. Covel
Written by Jared Hess
Starring Jon Heder
Music by John Swihart Cinematography Munn Powell Editing by Jeremy Coon Studio MTV Films
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures (USA)
Paramount Pictures (non-USA)
Release date(s) January 17, 2004(Sundance)
June 11, 2004
Running time 82 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $400,000 Box office $46,118,097
Napoleon Dynamite is a 2004 comedy film co-written and directed by Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess and stars Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite. The film was Jared Hess' first full-length feature and is partially adapted from his earlier short film, Peluca.
Napoleon Dynamite was produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures, and Paramount Pictures as MTV Films and was filmed in and near Franklin County, Idaho, in the summer of 2003. It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004. In June 2004 it was given a limited release. Its wide release followed in August. The film's total worldwide gross revenue was $46,140,956. The film has since developed a cult following.
Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) is an eccentric high school student from Preston, Idaho who lives with his grandmother (Sandy Martin), his older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) and their pet llama, Tina. Kip, 32, is not currently employed and boasts of spending hours in internet chat rooms with "babes" and training to be a cage fighter. Napoleon daydreams his way through school, doodling ligers and other fantastically weird creatures.
Napoleon's grandmother breaks her coccyx in a quad bike accident and believing her grandsons cannot be trusted to look after themselves, asks Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) to stay with them while she recovers. Uncle Rico, 46, is a former high-school quarterback who lives in an orange 1975 Dodge Santana campervan. His presence, although increasingly irksome to Napoleon, is a boon to Kip as he and Uncle Rico embark on a joint project to become door-to-door salesmen. Kip reveals that he would like to earn some money to enable him to meet his new internet girlfriend from Detroit, LaFawndah Lucas (Shondrella Avery). Uncle Rico is not averse to using Napoleon's name to gain credibility in his attempts to sell herbal breast-enhancement products to Napoleon's school mates, causing increasing friction between Uncle Rico, Napoleon and his friend Deb (Tina Majorino).
Napoleon makes two new friends at school, Deb and Pedro. Deb is a shy and sensitive girl. The two have a falling out when Uncle Rico attempts to sell her breast-enhancement herbs and implies that Napoleon suggested it. Pedro (Efren Ramirez) is a transfer student from Juárez, Mexico, who decides to run for class President against popular girl Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff). Despite a couple of hiccups, the campaign goes well until the time Pedro is about to deliver his final speech, when he discovers that each candidate must perform a skit afterward. Having not prepared a routine, a despondent Pedro gives a lackluster speech, believing that his candidacy is over. Napoleon gives a music tape he had received from the visiting LaFawndah to the sound engineer and performs a dance routine to "Canned Heat" by Jamiroquai, which wins a standing ovation from the school audience.
The film closes out with a montage of scenes showing a happy ending for all concerned. Pedro wins the class Presidency. LaFawndah, smitten with Kip right from the start, transforms his fashion and they leave town together to meet her family in Detroit. A fully recovered Grandma returns and has clearly missed Tina, the llama, more than her grandchildren. Uncle Rico meets an attractive woman and while Napoleon is playing tetherball by himself, Deb shows up and starts playing with him, having forgiven her friend.
A post-credits scene, added after the festival release, reveals Kip and LaFawndah getting married. Napoleon is noticed as missing by Pedro and Uncle Rico, but as Kip sings for LaFawndah, Napoleon rides up to them on a brown horse and says that he has tamed a wild honeymoon stallion for them, which they use to leave their wedding.
- Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite
- Jon Gries as Uncle Rico Dynamite
- Aaron Ruell as Kip Dynamite
- Efren Ramirez as Pedro Sánchez
- Tina Majorino as Deb
- Diedrich Bader as Rex
- Haylie Duff as Summer Wheatley
- Trevor Snarr as Don
- Emily Kennard as Trisha
- Sandy Martin as Grandma Dynamite
- Shondrella Avery as LaFawnduh Lucas
- Carmen Brady as Starla
- Dale Critchlow as Lyle
Preston is a real town in Southeastern Idaho, located near the Utah border. Since the release of Napoleon Dynamite, it has become a tourist attraction of sorts, with the high school being a main feature. Also with its premiere in 2004, Preston has held a Napoleon Dynamite Festival every summer to celebrate the filming of Napoleon Dynamite in Preston and nearby towns.
In April 2005, the Idaho Legislature approved a resolution commending the filmmakers for producing Napoleon Dynamite, specifically enumerating the benefits the movie has brought to Idaho, as well as for showcasing various aspects of Idaho's culture and economy. According to the end credits, the film was shot entirely in the state of Idaho.
The film was originally made without opening titles. Audiences at test screenings were confused about when the film was set. Eight months after the film was complete, the title sequence was filmed in the cinematographer's basement.We actually had Jon Heder placing all the objects in and out [of frame], and then showed it to Searchlight who really liked it and thought it was great, but some lady over there was like "There are some hangnails, or something -- the hands look kinda gross! It's really bothering me, can we re-shoot some of those? We'll send you guys a hand model." We were like "WHAT?!" This of course was my first interaction with a studio at all, so they flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder. So we reshot, but they're now intermixed, so if you look there are like three different dudes' hands (our producer's are in there too.) It all worked out great though and was a lot of fun.
Origin of the name "Napoleon Dynamite"
Upon the film's release, it was noted that the name "Napoleon Dynamite" had originally been used by musician Elvis Costello, most visibly on his 1986 album Blood & Chocolate, although he had used the pseudonym on a single B-side as early as 1982. Filmmaker Jared Hess claims that he was not aware of Costello's use of the name until two days before the end of shooting, when he was informed by a teenage extra. He later said, "Had I known that name was used by anybody else prior to shooting the whole film, it definitely would have been changed ... I listen to hip-hop, dude. It's a pretty embarrassing coincidence." Hess claims that "Napoleon Dynamite" was the name of a man he met around the year 2000 on the streets of Cicero, Illinois, while doing missionary work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Costello believes that Hess got the name from him, whether directly or indirectly. Costello said, "The guy just denies completely that I made the name up... but I invented it. Maybe somebody told him the name and he truly feels that he came about it by chance. But it's two words that you're never going to hear together." Costello has taken no legal action against the film.
While some reviews were mixed, the film generally received positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 71% "fresh" approval rating based on 163 reviews with an average score of 6.3 out of 10. Rolling Stone magazine complimented the film, saying "Hess and his terrific cast — Heder is geek perfection — make their own kind of deadpan hilarity. You'll laugh till it hurts. Sweet." The Christian Science Monitor called the film "a refreshing new take on the overused teen-comedy genre" and said that the film "may not make you laugh out loud - it's too sly and subtle for that - but it will have you smiling every minute, and often grinning widely at its weirded-out charm." Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice condemned the film as "a movie, that despite all indications to the contrary, is one that absolutely no one likes." In a very mixed review, The New York Times praised Heder's performance and the "film's most interesting quality, which is its stubborn, confident, altogether weird individuality," while criticizing the film's resolution that comes "too easily." Prominent film critic Roger Ebert gave the film one-and-a-half stars, noting that he felt that "the movie makes no attempt to make [Napoleon] likable" and that it contained "a kind of studied stupidity that sometimes passes as humor". At the time Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C-.
Entertainment Weekly later placed Napoleon as number 88 on its 2010 list of The 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years, saying "A high school misfit found a sweet spot, tapping into our inner dork." The film was on several year-end lists. Rolling Stone's placed it at number 22 of the 25 Top DVDs of 2004.
Techdirt.com coined the term "The Napoleon Dynamite Problem", the phenomenon whereby "quirky" films such as Napoleon Dynamite, Lost in Translation, and I Heart Huckabees prove difficult for researchers to create algorithms that are able to predict whether or not a particular viewer will like the film based on their ratings of previously viewed films.
Despite some mixed reviews and a very limited initial release, Napoleon Dynamite was a commercial success. It was filmed on an estimated budget of a mere $400,000, and less than a year after its release, it had grossed $44,940,956. It also spawned a slew of Napoleon Dynamite merchandise from refrigerator magnets to T-shirts to Halloween costumes.
- Best Feature Film at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival the same year. The film's budget was only $400,000. When the film rights were sold to a major distributor, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox supplied additional funds for the post-credits scene.
- In 2005, the film — itself an MTV Films production — won three MTV Movie Awards, for Breakthrough Male Performance, Best Musical Performance, and Best Movie. The film is #14 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".
- It won the 2005 Golden Trailer Awards for Best Comedy.
- It won the 2005 Golden Satellite Award for Best Original Score (John Swihart).
- Four awards at the Teen Choice Awards. Best Movie Breakout Performance - Female for Haylie Duff, Best Movie Dance Scene, Best Movie Hissy Fit for Jon Heder, and Best Comedy.
- The 2004 Film Discovery Jury Award for Best Feature
In April 2010, it was revealed that an animated series was in the works. Much of the original cast agreed to reprise their roles. This includes Jon Heder as Napoleon, Efren Ramirez as Pedro, Aaron Ruell as Kip Dynamite, and Jon Gries as Uncle Rico. In October 2010, Fox announced that the series will debut during the 2012-13 television season. Director Jared Hess, his co-screenwriter wife Jerusha, and Mike Scully will serve as producers, in association with 20th Century Fox Television.
- ^ 
- ^ Idaho's resolution commending Jared and Jerusha Hess
- ^ "A Q&A with director Jared Hess.". Art of the Title Sequence. http://www.artofthetitle.com/2010/08/30/napoleon-dynamite/. Retrieved 2010-09-03.
- ^ "Blood And Chocolate (reissue) - Elvis Costello And The Attractions". The Elvis Costello Home Page. http://www.elviscostello.info/disc/official/bac/bac_info_a02.htm.
- ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0374900/trivia
- ^ http://www.elviscostello.info/disc/official/ib/ib_info_s02.htm
- ^ a b Stereogum article: "Napoleon Dynamite Vs. Elvis Costello".
- ^ "Did Napoleon Dynamite Borrow Elvis' Alias?". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,662230,00.html.
- ^ "In 'Napoleon Dynamite,' Nerdity Without Shame". Washington Post. June 20, 2004. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52435-2004Jun18.html.
- ^ Contact Music article: "COSTELLO ADAMANT NAPOLEON DYNAMITE WAS HIS IDEA".
- ^ "Napoleon Dynamite". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/napoleon_dynamite/.
- ^ Travers, Peter (June 24, 2004), "Napoleon Dynamite (Film)". Rolling Stone. (951):186
- ^ Sterritt, David (June 11, 2004), "Revenge of the (Idaho) nerd in 'Napoleon Dynamite'". Christian Science Monitor. 96 (138)
- ^ Michael Atkinson (June 1, 2004). "Deadpan Walking. Welcome to the droll house: American geek hood finds a new icon in a clueless Idaho teen". Village Voice. http://www.villagevoice.com/film/0423,atkinson,54121,20.html.
- ^ SCOTT, A. O. (June 11, 2004), "FILM REVIEW; A Nerdy Nobody of a Hero Who Proves to Be Napoleonic." New York Times. :15
- ^ "Reviews :: Napoleon Dynamite". rogerebert.com (Chicago Sun Times). http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040618/REVIEWS/406180306/1023.
- ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (June 18, 2004), "NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (Film)". Entertainment Weekly. (770):60-63
- ^ (June 4, 2010), "88. NAPOLEON DYNAMITE". Entertainment Weekly. (1105/1106):90
- ^ (November 25, 2004), "Napoleon Dynamite (Film)". Rolling Stone (962):82
- ^ "The Napoleon Dynamite Problem Stymies Netflix Prize Competitors". Techdirt. http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20081123/1212542927.shtml.
- ^ "Fox Developing Napoleon Dynamite Animated Television Series". /Film. http://www.slashfilm.com/2010/05/15/fox-developing-napoleon-dynamite-animated-television-series.
- ^ Gorman, Bill (October 17, 2010). "Fox Announces Animated Comedies ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ & ‘Allen Gregory’ For Next Season". The Futon Critic. http://tvbythenumbers.com/2010/10/17/fox-announces-animated-comedies-napoleon-dynamite-allen-gregory-for-next-season/68343. Retrieved October 17, 2010.
- Napoleon Dynamite
- Napoleon Dynamite at the Internet Movie Database
- Napoleon Dynamite at AllRovi
- Napoleon Dynamite at Box Office Mojo
- Napoleon Dynamite at Rotten Tomatoes
Films by Jared and Jerusha HessNapoleon Dynamite (2004) • Nacho Libre (2006) • Gentlemen Broncos (2009) MTV Films
Joe's Apartment (1996) · Beavis and Butt-head Do America (1996) · Dead Man on Campus (1998) · Varsity Blues (1999) · 200 Cigarettes (1999) · Election (1999) · The Wood (1999) · The Original Kings of Comedy (2000) · Save the Last Dance (2001) · Pootie Tang (2001) · Orange County (2002) · Better Luck Tomorrow (2002) · Crossroads (2002) · Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (2002) · Jackass: The Movie (2002) · The Fighting Temptations (2003) · Tupac: Resurrection (2003) · The Perfect Score (2004) · Napoleon Dynamite (2004) · Hustle & Flow (2005) · Coach Carter (2005) · Murderball (2005) · The Longest Yard (2005) · Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005) · Æon Flux (2005) · Jackass Number Two (2006) · Freedom Writers (2007) · Blades of Glory (2007) · Beneath (2007) · How She Move (2008) · Stop-Loss (2008) · Dance Flick (2009) · Jackass 3D (2010) · Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2011) · Love (2011)
MTV Movie Award for Best MovieTerminator 2: Judgment Day (1992) • A Few Good Men (1993) • Menace II Society (1994) • Pulp Fiction (1995) • Seven (1996) • Scream (1997) • Titanic (1998) • There's Something About Mary (1999) • The Matrix (2000) • Gladiator (2001) • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002) • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2003) • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2004) • Napoleon Dynamite (2005) • Wedding Crashers (2006) • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2007) • Transformers (2008) • Twilight (2009) • The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2010) • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2011)
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