In 2004, a small, independent teen comedy came seemingly out of nowhere and quickly became a runaway success. With its deadpan delivery of now iconic lines, this celebration of eccentricity has spent the last 15 years developing a cult following. Do you know what film this is?
Partially adapted from Jared Hess’ short film Peluca, Napoleon Dynamite was written by Jared and Jerusha Hess and directed by Jared. It was produced by Jeremy Coon, Chris Wyatt, Sean Covel and Jory Weitz. The comedy film starred Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite, Efren Ramirez as Pedro Sánchez, Tina Majorino as Deborah “Deb” Bradshaw, Aaron Ruell as Kipland “Kip” Dynamite, Jon Gries as Uncle Rico, Haylie Duff as Summer Wheatley, Emily Kennard as Trisha Jenner, Shondrella Avery as LaFawnduh Lucas, Sandy Martin as Grandma Carlinda Dynamite, Diedrich Bader as Rex, Trevor Snarr as Don, and Ellen Dubin as Aunt Ilene.
The film follows socially awkward 16-year-old Napoleon Dynamite, who live in Idaho with his adventurous grandma and unemployed 32-year-old brother Kip. While Kip spends his time chatting online with hot babes all day, Napoleon is more focused on acquiring good skills – like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, and computer hacking skills. When their grandmother breaks her coccyx in a quad-bike accident, Uncle Rico comes to look after the boys while she recovers. This middle aged, steak loving former athlete lives in a campervan, and is heavily involved in get rich quick schemes. Napoleon can’t stand Uncle Rico, while Kip joins in his schemes to earn enough money to visit his internet girlfriend LaFawnduh.
During school, Napoleon befriends Deb, a shy girl who runs various small businesses, and Pedro, a transfer student from Mexico. Eventually, Pedro decides to run for class president against Summer Wheatley and enlists the help of Napoleon and Deb. On election day, Summer presents a dance skit to “Larger than Life” by the Backstreet Boys. This is followed by an unimpressive speech by a despondent Pedro who was unaware that he needed to perform a skit. In what is perhaps the most iconic scene of the film, Napoleon performs an elaborate and spontaneous dance routine to “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai that leads to Pedro’s victory. A hilarious post-credits scene sees Kip and LaFawnduh married in an outdoor ceremony with Kip serenading his lady love with an original ballad.
At the time of his casting, Heder was only paid $1,000 for his role as the titular character. However, after the film grossed $46.1 million at the box office, Heder renegotiated his compensation and received a cut of the profits. Despite its very limited initial release, Napoleon Dynamite went on to win the Best Feature Film at the US Comedy Arts Festival, three MTV Movie Awards including Breakthrough Male Performance, Best Musical Performance, and Best Movie, the Golden Trailer Award for Best Comedy, the Golden Satellite Award for Best Original Score, and four Teen Choice Awards.
To this day, Napoleon Dynamite remains one of the most quoted films of all time with Pedro and Napoleon costumes favorited during the Halloween season. This September 2019, IDW Publishing is taking readers back to Idaho for a four-issue continuation of the beloved cult classic. Written by the sibling team of Carlos Guzman-Verdugo and Alejandro Verdugo (Time Cheetah), with art by Jorge Monlongo (Adventure Time), this new Napoleon Dynamite series sees Pedro accused of cheating in the election.
Read more about this upcoming project here on Scoop.