Napoleon Dynamite | Chicago Reader

Napoleon Dynamite

Rated PG-13 86 minutes

With its horribly geeky and painfully needy characters, this black comedy by Jared Hess bears a certain resemblance to Todd Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse but steers clear of Solondz's punishing nihilism, allowing its hopeless misfits some genuine comfort in one another's friendship. Jon Heder plays the title character, a furious spaz who trudges the halls of his Idaho high school wearing moon boots and wildlife T-shirts; his home life is dominated by his nerdy older brother (Aaron Ruell), who's carrying on an Internet romance with a Detroit ghetto girl, and his frustrated uncle (Jon Gries), who's constantly reliving his high school gridiron career. Toward the end the freak-show humor begins to yield diminishing returns, but for most of its length this delivers a steady stream of uncomfortable gut laughs.

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