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by Willie Waffle

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Napoleon Dynamite

It was a Sundance Film Festival darling earlier this year, but I was left wondering why.

Jon Heder stars as Napoleon Dynamite - a small town kid in Idaho who doesn't fit in at school and barely fits in within his own family. While he suffers the slings and arrows of being the uncool, obnoxious kid at school, his 30-year old brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) spends his days looking for love on the Internet and his Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) tries to relive his former high school glory days. Napoleon's world gets a little more complicated when his Grandmother has an accident, and Uncle Rico has to take care of him.

Will Napoleon find a way to cope? Can he find love with a new girl and friendship with a new pal?

I have to admit, I'm stretching it a bit with that plot summary. Sadly, Napoleon Dynamite doesn't have much of a plot. Worst of all, it seems to be a mean spirited look at people who aren't like you and me. Napoleon and his pals aren't the heroes of a Bruce Springsteen song who get up every morning and go to work each day. They're knuckleheads. Writer/director Jared Hess doesn't make any effort to show nobility in the life these characters lead or make us sympathize with them. He appears only to want to make fun of these people, and that's mean. I feel like Hess wants to tell the audience, "you're better than these people, so laugh at them." I can't go for that. They aren't obviously comedic like characters in Dumb and Dumber or some movie like that. These characters are sad, lonely, and down on their luck. I can't laugh at that.

Heder does a great job making Napoleon Dynamite into the most obnoxious movie characters of the year, but is he a hero? I find it hard to believe he has learned anything or made his life better, but maybe that's the point, and that's what I find so mean. The supporting cast is strong, especially Ruell, but, without much of a plot, their performances don't serve much of a purpose.

1 Waffle (Out Of 4)

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