Napoleon Dynamite Parent Guide
The biggest challenge with this film is knowing whether to laugh with Napoleon, or at him.
Parent Movie Review
Quirky may be the best word to describe Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder). There’s certainly nothing conformist about the Preston, Idaho high school student with the curly red Afro, oversized glasses and moon boot footwear. But his peculiarities go beyond his looks.
Napoleon is different because he’s on the fringe of the social circle, yet he doesn’t seem to mind. Unlike so many teens who’d do anything to fit in, Napoleon seems casually comfortable with where he is. And that’s what makes him, above anything else, interesting to watch.
Whether Napoleon’s unconventional habits are the result of his genetics or environment, it’s hard to know. He lives with his grandmother (Sandy Martin) who has a pet llama and goes four wheeling. He also lives with his nerdy, 31-year-old unemployed brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) who spends hours in chat rooms searching for romance. Later, the boys’ Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) moves in as well.
Rico is one of those guys who may have graduated from high school but never really left it. He relishes his past glory days on the football field and still considers himself a buff young buck. As a door-to-door salesman, he has a rather adolescent enthusiasm for selling bust enhancing supplements.
Trying to avoid his uncle, Napoleon hangs out with his friends, Pedro (Efren Ramirez) and Deb (Tina Majorino), the neighbor girl who’s earning money for college by selling beaded key chains and shooting “glamour” portraits in her homemade studio. Deb’s unflappable personality and no-nonsense initiative provide a calm center in the circle of eccentric personalities buzzing around this movie.
Deciding they have nothing to lose, Napoleon and Deb agree to help Pedro when he decides to run for student body president against the popular Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff). Surprisingly, it’s Napoleon’s unabashed eccentricity that proves to be a pivotal turning point in the campaign.
The biggest challenge with this film is trying to figure out if you’re laughing with Napoleon or laughing at him, which can be a bit unsettling. Often bullied at school and teased at home, he has experiences most of us can relate to - sometimes so intensely that it can have adult viewers cringing rather than laughing as they remember the social horrors of their own high school days. However parents might react to this unusual adolescent, we can hope that this movie gives young viewers a greater sense of empathy for their fellow classmates who might not fit in with the crowd. Whether it helps young viewers be more sympathetic to others or not remains to be seen. For family viewing, some mild innuendo and an emphatic substitute for swearing are likely the biggest beefs parents will have.
Meanwhile, for those of us who grew up in small towns where blue FFA jackets and long, bumpy bus rides were more common than bikinis and surfboards, it’s refreshing to see a familiar high school atmosphere portrayed.Directed by Jared Hess. Starring Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Jon Gries. Running time: 89 minutes. Theatrical release June 11, 2004. Updated March 31, 2020
Watch the trailer for Napoleon Dynamite
Rating & Content Info
Why is Napoleon Dynamite rated PG? Napoleon Dynamite is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements and language.
Page last updated March 31, 2020
Napoleon Dynamite Parents' Guide
Set in Preston, Idaho rather than Southern California, how does the portrayal of high school differ from many other movies? Are there characters you relate to in this film?
Pedro makes a pinata of Summer Wheatley during the election. How does this cultural tradition cause him problems? Can a lack of understanding or appreciation for others customs create unnecessary difficulties?
Napoleon and Pedro are members of the FFA. Learn more about this organization for youth that helps promote leadership and agricultural education.
Loved this movie? Try these books…The Perks of Being a Wallflower was originally a novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky, and The Mighty was originally a novel titled "Freak the Mighty" by Rodman Philbrick. It has a sequel, "Max the Mighty". Jerry Spinelli's novel "Loser" is another coming of age story about Donald Zinkoff, a young man who has struggled his whole life to belong.
The most recent home video release of Napoleon Dynamite movie is February 3, 2009. Here are some details…
Hey, all you Napoleon Dynamite fans! This 2-disc DVD release is Like the Best Special Edition Ever, and it’s full of sweet features like commentary on the movie by director/co-writer Jared Hess, actor Jon Heder and producer Jeremy Coon and some deleted scenes, as well as a cast commentary by Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirz, Jon Gries and Tina Majorino. You can also go On Location: Napoleon Dynamite, watch the documentary World Premiere Jared Hess, catch The Wedding of the Century! featurette, or scan through the Audition Tapes, Utah State Fair Ads, and some MTV on-air Promos. Don’t forget to be on the look out for Napoleon Sightings, Outtakes and Extended Alternate Scenes, and the Stills Gallery. Almost more fun than you thought could be packed into an Idaho school bus, this widescreen presentation comes with audio tracks in English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.1 Surround), and French (Dolby Digital 2.1 Surround). Subtitles are available in Spanish and French.
Home Video Notes: Napoleon Dynamite (Blu-ray)
Release Date: 3 February 2009
Napoleon Dynamite explodes on Blu-ray in widescreen, with 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio (English) and 5.1 Dolby Surround (French and Spanish). Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish. This edition offers the following bonus extras:
- Commentary by Director/Co-Writer Jared Hess, Actor Jon Heder and Producer Jeremy Coon.
- Cast Commentary by Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Jon Gries and Tina Majorino.
- Documentaries (World Premier Jared Hess and On Location: Napoleon Dynamite).
- Four Deleted and Extended Scenes.
- Four Extended/Alternate Scenes.
- 3 Outtakes
-Featurettes (Casting Napoleon Dynamite- An Interview with Jory Weit, Audition Videos, Napoleon Sightings, Utah State Fair Ads, TV Spots, MTV On-Air Promos and The Wedding Of the Century!)
- Peluca- The 2002 short film by Jared Hess that inspired Napoleon Dynamite.
- Still Gallery.
- DB Live Bootstrap.
Napoleon Dynamite releases as a DVD/Blu-ray Combo on 6 April, 2010.
Related home video titles:
Like Pedro and Napoleon, two teens who are outcasts among their schoolmates become friends in The Mighty when they discover their combined strengths. A young boy with an amazing talent to play chess faces pressure from his father to achieve more and more success in Searching for Bobby Fischer. Another story about the struggles of fitting in is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which focuses on a young mans struggle with mental illness and the importance of friendship.