Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Haylie Duff
Napoleon Dynamite, a high-schooler residing in a dot on the map known as Preston, Idaho, is bemoaning the fact that he's no babe magnet. "Girls only want boyfriends with great skills," he says. He specifies the proficiencies that female peers desire in a beau: nun-chaku wielding, bow hunting and computer hacking.
If that list alone makes you laugh, you're on the right wavelength for this wonderfully original, deadpan comedy, chronicling the sad-sack adventures of a total nerd and his even more dweebish older brother (Aaron Ruell) and uncle (Jon Gries). What's most refreshing about Dynamite is that Napoleon (Heder) embraces his nerd-dom. So what if the jocks at school slam him into lockers every day? That's not going to keep him from campaigning on behalf of his best (and only) friend, Pedro (Ramirez), when the latter runs for student office against the school's most popular girl (Duff, the older sister of teen star Hilary).
The promising Heder, a gangly newcomer who's all rubbery arms and legs, never condescends to his character. His Napoleon may be a mite at odds with the world, but he trusts it will come around to his view, rather than vice versa. By the end of this dynamite debut by director-cowriter Jared Hess, tickled viewers will have done exactly that. (PG)