Napoleon Dynamite

To Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), a nerdy Idaho white boy in a red Afro, the word signifies something sublime, like learning soul dancing and how to play nunchaku. Or the time machine his crazy Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) is building to revisit his days as a football hero. Or the ponytail his friend Deb (a fab Tina Majorino) wears on the side of her head. Or the bootylicious mama, Lafawnduh (Shondrella Avery), that his brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) finds on the Internet. Or just the fact that his Mexican friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) is running for class president. What's not sweet is anyone who is contemptuous of Napoleon's universe. First-time director Jared Hess, 24, who wrote the script with his wife, Jersuha, has been accused of ripping off Welcome to the Dollhouse and Rushmore. Nah. Hess and his terrific cast — Heder is geek perfection — make their own kind of deadpan hilarity. You'll laugh till it hurts. Sweet.

From The Archives Issue 349: August 6, 1981