Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Napoleon Dynamite is an American independent film written and directed by Jared Hess for only $400,000. The movie is based on the short film he directed at BYU with Jon Heder, Peluca. Napoleon debuted in 2004, earning $116,666 in its opening weekend, and over $44 million as of December 20, 2004. The DVD was released on December 21, 2004. Since its release, it has gained somewhat of a cult film status among Generation Xers and young people, who seem to identify the most with the film.
The film follows the protagonist Napoleon Dynamite, a dorky high school student with a penchant for milk tasting, drawing, and telling implausible stories. The film showcases Napoleon's personality and circle of friends, family, and associates in his hometown of Preston, Idaho. Though the film has been described as "quirky," it is not in the same vein as the Wes Anderson films, as the main character and some of his friends' behavior at times borders on Asperger's Syndrome, an autism-spectrum condition characterized by extreme social awkwardness and fascination with specific things that many might consider inane or bizarre. Whether this similarity was intended or even recognized by the film-makers has not been addressed.
This similarity with mental illnesses has also led some to speculate that the characters may simply be elementary school-archetypes placed in a high-school framework. This would also explain the simplicity of the words used.
There is no strongly focused plot, but the movie follows the growth of the friendship between Napoleon and Pedro, Pedro's venture to become school president , and their relationship with Deb. The characters are all very extreme, which may represent the extremes in a common society or common "high school life".
- Napoleon Dynamite, the film's protagonist, is a nerd who loves to draw fantasy creatures and calls everyone besides himself "freakin' idiots". Napoleon's favorite food is tater tots.
- Pedro Sanchez is a new student from Juarez, Mexico. He runs for class president.
- Deb is a shy and awkward schoolmate who is trying to earn money for college by selling glamor shots and boondoggle keychains. She often wears her hair with a single ponytail off to one side. She goes with Pedro to the dance.
- Kipland "Kip" Ronald Dynamite is Napoleon's wimpy older brother ("like 32 years old") who enjoys online dating and claims to be training to become a cage fighter. He and Napoleon live with their Grandma.
- Uncle Rico is the uncle of Napoleon and Kip. He played football in his younger days ("Back in '82") and longs to go back in time and change his fortunes. Uncle Rico enjoys eating steak. He watches Kip and Napoleon while their Grandma is in the hospital due to a broken coccyx. During this time, he and Kip venture into a variety of business engagements, selling Tupperware and herbal breast enhancers.
- Summer Wheatly is a stereotypical blonde who runs for school president against Pedro.
- Don is Summer's cocky boyfriend. He helps Summer on her campaign for class president and occasionally teases Napoleon and Pedro.
- Trisha is one of Summer's good friends, and is forced into going with Napoleon to the school dance.
- LaFawnduh Lucas is a woman Kip met over the Internet. She is tall, stylish and black, contrasting with Kip's short, pale, and awkward demeanor. After spending time with her, Kip changes his clothes and demeanor to mimic African-American or white rapper stereotypes.
- Rex is sensei of the "Rex Kwon Do" dojo. He is an ex-fighter and charges a large fee for his services ($300 for an 8-week program). He is a very confident man and is married to Starla, a female bodybuilder.
- Grandma is grandmother of Napoleon and Kip. She breaks her coccyx on a jump in her four wheeler at the sand dunes while on a date. According to Rico, there is a lot Napoleon and Kip do not know about her.
- Randy, the school bully. He frequently injures and robs Napoleon and other nerds.
- Tina, the llama that belongs to Napoleon's grandmother, has a certain aversion to her dinner. Napoleon calls her a fat lard. "Tina you fat lard come eat your dinner!"
Preston, Idaho is a real town located near the Utah border. Since the release of Napoleon, it has become a tourist attraction of sorts, with the school being a main feature. Napoleon T-shirts have also become somewhat hot commodities in 2005, selling at many stores that sell novelty shirts, such as Hot Topic.
The time period of the movie is disputed due to several factors. For example, the school dance music is from 1980s acts such as Alphaville and Cyndi Lauper, some characters' dress styles reflect those of the 70s through mid-80s, and the VCR in the Dynamite residence resembles one from the early days of such technology.
Though the Backstreet Boys and Jamiroquai songs played during Summer and Pedro's skits seem to date the film to the 1990s, Napoleon's school ID card shown in the opening credits clearly reads "2004/2005". Additionally, Uncle Rico frequently refers to his high school glory days of 1982, and he appears to be in his late 30s to early 40s. Furthermore, Kip's use of the Internet for dating and purchasing a time machine places the movie in the late '90s to the present day.
One theory is that the town is so culturally stagnant that the styles and electronics haven't been updated since the 1980s, although the action takes place in or around 2005. When asked when his movie was set, writer/director Jared Hess simply replied "Idaho."
The film also displays many quirky references to Mormon popular culture. Napoleon uses the word flip instead of the more common expletive fuck. He wears a t-shirt for Ricks College, the former junior college located in Rexburg, Idaho now known as BYU Idaho. In the DVD extras, there is an interview with Jon Heder in which he jokes that perhaps Napoleon and Deb may be joined "for time and all eternity"—a reference to the Mormon belief in "eternal marriage" performed in LDS temples. The principal's reference to "Juarez"—where he assumes Pedro is from—is a reference to Colonia Juarez, a Mormon colony in Mexico founded to evade U.S. polygamy laws in the nineteenth century. The large block of cheese is familiar to most Mormons, who are freqently admonished to keep supplies of food sufficient to live for years in preparation for the "latter days."
- Jon Heder as Napoleon
- Jon Gries as Uncle Rico
- Aaron Ruell as Kip
- Efren Ramirez as Pedro
- Diedrich Bader as Rex
- Tina Majorino as Deb
- Sandy Martin as Grandma
- Haylie Duff as Summer
- Trevor Snarr as Don
- Shondrella Avery as LaFawnduh
- Bracken Johnson as Randy
- Carmen Brady as Starla
- Ellen Dubin as Ilene
- Emily Kennard as Trisha
- Tina the Llama as herself
- The dishes shown in the opening credits are all eaten at some point in the movie.
- Jon Gries is a vegetarian, and spit out every bite of red meat he chewed during filming.
- During some scenes of the movie, Napoleon is seen wearing a Ricks College T-shirt. Ricks was a junior college in Idaho that was made an official satellite of BYU in 2000.
- Jon Heder freestyled most of his dance routine with the help of Tina Majorino (Deb), who is a hip-hop instructor. Some of the moves included drew inspiration from *NSync and Michael Jackson.
- Jon Gries wore a wig for the role of Uncle Rico. The wig attracted flies throughout filming, as seen in the film.
- Several scenes in the movie are the results of improvisation, such as Kip's reaction to backing over the Tupperware bowl.
- Jon Heder has his hair permed for the "Napoleon" look.
- The boy sitting with Napoleon in the back of the bus was a local who came in for audition.
- The music used in the scene where Napoleon showcases his dancing skills is "Canned Heat" by Jamiroquai.
- The music used in the campaign poster montage is the A-Team theme song.
- The lady on the bicycle who approaches Rico near the end of the film is his ex, who is mentioned earlier in the movie. She was played by Aaron Ruell's wife, Julia.
- All 181 student extras in the film are individually credited in the closing credits.
- Napoleon enjoys dancing, and belongs to the "Happy Hands" club, which practices sign singing. He joined this club because "all of the other sweet clubs were filled" (this is revealed in the deleted scene "Second Locker Room" on the Napoleon Dynamite DVD).
- Napoleon's "moon boots" by the end of the movie were falling apart and were being held together by duct tape. Heder also said that they started to smell.
- Preston High School, Napoleon's high school, has started an actual "Happy Hands Club" since the release of the film.
- "Napoleon Dynamite" was a pseudonym used by Elvis Costello in the credits of his 1986 album Blood and Chocolate. Executive producer Jeremy Coon has stated that the similarity is a coincidence and that the producers were unaware of Costello's usage of the name until the film was in production.
- There is an extra scene hidden after the credits which shows Kip and LaFawnduh's marriage ceremony two months later.
- Napolean favorite animal, the Liger, is actually a real animal, and exists in zoos as a result of mating a lion and a tiger. Though of course, it does not posess a spiked tail or magic abilities.
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