Jared Hess' Napoleon Dynamite is, without question, the sleeper comedy of the year. Influenced by Wes Anderson's "Rushmore" and Paul Feig's "Freaks and Geeks", Napoleon Dynamite is a study in isolation that clearly distances itself from the two. Napoleon, played by newcomer Jon Herder, is a quirky geek from rural Idaho who, like many before him within the genre, has problems relating to others. His obvious disregard for the way in which others view him, including the audience, isolates him further. The fact is that Napoleon Dynamite is a character study that never actually studies a character.
It nestles itself within the genre of alienated teen comedy by taking 85 minutes to deliver and repeat a one liner. Situations present themselves whereby Napoleon is put on the spot. His obvious disregard for how others receive his words deliver the joke, as there are no consequences for his action. Things here stay stagnant, a journey that takes us nowhere except to the realization that we are laughing out loud, situation after situation.
What distinguishes this film from others within the genre is that there is no revenge from this nerd; there isn't even any change in his disposition. Rather, Jared Hess takes us through a week in the life of a geek leading up to the prom. The anxiety pertaining to this, as seen in so many other films, is totally underdeveloped, which works.
To suggest that Napoleon is comfortable with the way he handles himself is an understatement, but i guess that is fitting since this film is a total understatement. Despite being the center of attention, he does not allow a possible error in judgment to affect him. The audience laughs at him the same way his onscreen peers laugh at him. Napoleon remains unshaken, it truly doesn't stir him.
Napoleon Dynamite is a comedy that is quirky enough to keep you entertained from start to finish, even though you end up in exactly the same place.