Napoleon Dynamite is a 2004 comedy film co-written and directed by Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess and stars Jon Heder as the title character, Napoleon Dynamite. The film was Jared Hess’s first full-length feature and is partially adapted from his earlier short film, Peluca.
Napoleon Dynamite was acquired at the Sundance Film Festival by Fox Searchlight Pictures and Paramount Pictures in association with MTV Films. It 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 is an eccentric high school student from Preston, Idaho who lives with his grandmother, his older brother Kip, and their pet llama, Tina. Kip, 32, is currently unemployed and boasts of spending hours in internet chat rooms with “babes” and training to be a cage fighter; their grandmother leads a secret life involving mysterious boyfriends and quad biking in the desert. Napoleon daydreams his way through school, doodling ligers and fantasy creatures, while reluctantly dealing with the assorted bullies who frequently torment him. To make himself appear more interesting and dangerous than he is, Napoleon frequently makes up fantastic stories about himself and responds to benign questions with unprovoked anger.
Napoleon’s grandmother breaks her coccyx in a quad-bike accident and believing her grandsons cannot be trusted to look after themselves, asks their Uncle Rico to look after them while she recovers. Rico, a middle-aged former athlete who lives in a campervan, uses the opportunity to team up with Kip in a get rich quick scheme to sell various items door-to-door. Kip wants money in order to visit his internet girlfriend, LaFawnduh, while Rico believes that riches will help him get over his failed dreams of NFL stardom and the loss of his girlfriend.
Napoleon becomes friends with two students at his school: Deb, a shy girl who runs various small businesses to finance her college career; and Pedro, a transfer student from Juarez. The three quickly develop a close friendship as the school’s outcasts and begin spending all of their time together. Inspired by a poster at the school dance, Pedro decides to run for class president, pitting him against Summer Wheatley, a popular girl who dates Napoleon’s primary bully.
Rico and Kip’s scheme causes friction with Napoleon when Rico begins spreading embarrassing rumors about Napoleon in order to generate sympathy in his customers. Tensions finally come to a head after Rico tries to sell Deb an “herbal breast-enhancement product,” causing her to end her friendship with Napoleon. Rico is ultimately beaten up by the town’s martial arts instructor after he mistakenly believes that Rico is making advances on his wife. Kip, meanwhile, raises the money to pay for LaFawnduh to visit him from Detroit. She gives Kip a makeover, outfitting him in hip hop regalia, and the two leave together to go back to Michigan.
On the day of the class president elections, Pedro gives an unimpressive speech before the student body. Sensing his friend is in trouble, Napoleon instructs the sound engineer to play a tape he received from the visiting LaFawnduh. Napoleon runs onstage, where he performs an elaborate dance routine to “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai. The routine receives a standing ovation from everyone except for Summer and her boyfriend.
The film ends with each of the main character receiving a happy ending: Pedro becomes the class president; Rico is reunited with his estranged girlfriend; Grandma returns from the hospital; and Napoleon and Deb make up and play tetherball.
In a post-credits scene, Kip and LaFawnduh are married in an outdoor ceremony in Preston. Napoleon, absent for the vows, arrives riding a horse, claiming that it is a “wild honeymoon stallion” that he has tamed himself. After Deb photographs the new couple, Kip and LaFawnduh ride into the sunset.
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