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:: Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite is a downbeat US indie film about an oblivious, low-EQ geek and his relentlessly strange family. After some inventive credits featuring canteen food and a Chap stick, you’re warped into Napoleon’s unrealistic milieu, meeting his chat room-addicted Pampas-dependent brother (Aaron Ruell), his dune buggy-riding grandmother (Sandy Martin) and her pet llama, and Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) – a door-to-door salesman obsessed with time travel.

At school, there’s immigrant Pedro (Efren Ramirez), whose broken English and new kid status make him Napoleon’s default best friend. And when you meet 80s throwback pseudo fashionista Deb (Tina Majorino) and her pastel pink stirrup pants, you sense that Napoleon mightn’t always be unlucky in love.

Writer/director Jared Hess (his wife Jerusha co-scripted) has created a cult hit and shot the film’s gangly lead, Jon Heder, to relative stardom. But despite the eccentricity and occasional hilarity of this film, there’s no emotional core. Like Bad Santa, Napoleon Dynamite’s peopled with characters you’d cross the street to avoid, but they’re presented as zoo exhibits, rather than real people. And while it’s daring not to play for laughs, this gamble doesn’t entirely pay off – making Napoleon Dynamite slightly flat and slow moving. That it’s original, however, you can’t deny. Watch out for Hilary’s little sister Haylie Duff as teen queen Summer.