Suburban Scream

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smart, funky advertising campaign is marketing Jared Hess’s indie curio Napoleon Dynamite as a paragon of geek-chic, a hip-to-be-square hero for the bespectacled regulars of indie art-houses. But the smart ads make this simpleminded film seem like a rehash of Wes Andersen films, whereas it’s more a collection of broad comedy clichés. Set in small-town Preston, Idaho and peppered with white-trash pop culture references (white bread and diner food, scrunchies and nunchucks), the film tracks lanky dork Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), who lives at home with his loser brother and loser grandmother. They’re the cartoonish sort of losers you’d find on a hipster remake of Hee-Haw, and Napoleon towers over them with self-righteousness and the too-tight vintage t-shirts that once connoted indie rock and are now issued, per regulation, to all rock bands appearing on TRL.

Napoleon is utterly convinced that anyone who doesn’t spend time drawing unicorns in a Trapper Keeper is an "idiot!" (one of his many catchphrases). He cares for his pet emu and executes more pratfalls than Chevy Chase. Then, per ethnic plot devices borrowed from That 70’s Show and Bringing Down the House, Napoleon befriends the lone Hispanic kid at school, and learns to breakdance from a hip-hop video, as his older brother romances a black woman from Detroit. Yes, she’s named "LaFawnduh" and, yes, she converts Napoleon’s dorky brother into a white-boy gangsta in that all-too-familiar sista-spices-up-the-‘burbs shtick. The only somewhat original thing in this film is slapsticky Napoleon himself — then again, Heder’s performance is so one-note, that after you’ve seen him thrown up against a locker a dozen times, you’re ready to do it yourself. — Logan Hill  

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