Tegan’s Throwback Thursdays: Why you should still care about “Napoleon Dynamite”


Graphic by Maliah White

The iconic 2004 film “Napoleon Dynamite” follows an awkward teen attempting to feel seen by his peers. Despite its age, the film is still worthy of watching

Tegan Ruhl, Staff Writer

“Idiot! ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ was released over 14 years ago.” Yes, I know, and I don’t care. I know “Napoleon Dynamite” was released over 14 years ago, and some may say it is too late for a review of this masterpiece. However, I don’t care. 

I’m sure many of you have already seen “Napoleon Dynamite,” but let me explain the plot for the few of you who haven’t seen it yet. 

Awkward teen Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) lives in a small town in Idaho, also known as  the middle of nowhere. Already struggling to fit in at school, life becomes increasingly worse for Dynamite when his grandmother is injured in an ATV accident and his Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) comes to take care of him and his brother Kip (Aaron Ruell). 

Unable to find comfort anywhere he goes, Napoleon befriends Pedro (Efren Ramirez), the new Hispanic student at school who speaks little English. The two decide to launch a campaign for Pedro to run for class president, determined to succeed and make something of themselves. 

I cannot begin to explain how much I love this movie. 

First, I should disclose that this movie is dumb. I won’t deny it, but it’s so amazing at the same time. 

Let me explain.

The acting in this movie is phenomenal. Not in the way you think it’s phenomenal, but it’s still pretty great. 

Why do I like it so much? Because it’s dry. It’s so dry and monotone. There’s never really a proper moment of intense emotion throughout the entire movie, but it works because that’s the whole point. The movie is purposely dry, and that makes the humor, plot, soundtrack, outfits, setting and basically every single aspect of the movie ten times better. 

The characters are also (and I mean this in the most positive way possible) weird. The creative kind of weird that nobody wants to acknowledge. Napoleon is your typical tall and awkward kid that most people probably wouldn’t walk up and talk to on a normal day. However, his sense of imagination is amazing if you choose to look into it.

He’s a good drawer. Not as great as some of the Instagram drawing pages you see, but he’s not bad in my opinion. On top of that, he’s a freaking amazing dancer. If you don’t want to watch all of “Napoleon Dynamite,” I’d advise you to watch just the last fifteen minutes of the movie. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. 

Not only is Napoleon a great character, but the supporting characters are just as important as well. 

Even though Pedro doesn’t have many speaking lines throughout the movie, he brings out the aspects of Napoleon’s character that we wouldn’t have gotten if he were alone. He brings out the caring side of Napoleon that we probably wouldn’t have seen if Napoleon didn’t make any friends, and I think it allows viewers to really connect to the friendship that the two characters have. 

Kip and Uncle Rico are just as awkward as Napoleon. Kip looks like a 30-year-old man trapped in a 12-year-old boy’s body. The ensemble of polo shirts, cargo shorts and tall socks he wears kills me and makes me cringe at the same time. He’s like the version of Napoleon that never tried to make something of himself. 

Uncle Rico kind of creeps me out, if we’re being honest. I want to punt kick him every time I see him on screen, so I understand how Napoleon feels about him. However, I still have to applaud Jon Gries for how well he portrays his character. I can always appreciate a good actor, even if they play a character I come to dislike. 

Of course, I can’t forget Deb (Tina Majorino), the iconic female heroine of “Napoleon Dynamite” (that might be a little bit of an over-exaggeration, but I love Deb). Her style is unmatched, complete with the side pony, colorful shirts and fanny pack. 

I also feel like she’s the character that undergoes the greatest change in the movie. Maybe it’s just the progression of her hairstyles, but I feel like Deb really grows into her personality through the film. She parallels  Napoleon’s awkward personality in many ways, but I feel like she’s a breath of fresh air to the movie too. She’s something different, a little artistic. 

 The characters are certainly not the only thing I love about this movie.

Now, I’ve never been to Idaho, but the movie does exceptionally well at portraying a little town in the middle of nowhere. The mountains in the background, the fields of grass and dirt and the miles of road in the vast nothingness work to make everything just feel so secluded. The setting is phenomenal. If the movie took place anywhere else, the plot just wouldn’t work.

The soundtrack is also amazing, in my opinion. After watching this movie again, I found a Spotify playlist with the movie’s soundtrack because it was just that good. The soundtrack compliments the movie so well. Songs that especially stood out to me were “We’re Going To Be Friends” by the White Stripes, “Forever Young” by Alphaville, “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai, and, my personal favorite, “The Promise” by When In Rome. I won’t say much else about the soundtrack because I don’t want to take away the experience from you, but each song accents the scenes they are in so well that you just forget what’s happening around you. 

The costume choices especially stood out to me. As many times as I’ve watched this movie, I’m still not sure what decade it’s supposed to be set in, but the fashion is impeccable. Napoleon is always wearing a T-shirt tucked into his jeans, and his pant legs are tucked into these awful snow boots that I have to comment on every time I see them.

 Pedro’s style is safe with nice dress shirts and jeans. Deb,as I mentioned before, wears colorful shirts, scrunchies on a side pony and a pink fanny pack. Kip wears polo shirts and cargo shorts (I literally cannot handle the cargo shorts, please put on an actual pair of pants). 

Uncle Rico, however, is the worst. I don’t think he ever actually changes his clothes throughout the entire movie. He wears this weird cut-out light blue shirt that’s a V-neck, but not really a V-Neck, and a shirt underneath it with blue pants to match. His clothes complement his personality. I’m going to leave it there. 

The last thing I’ll hit on is how quotable this movie actually is. If you’ve never seen “Napoleon Dynamite,” then you are missing out. Since I can’t explain this any other way, let me drive by some of my favorite quotes.


“Whatever I feel like I wanna do, gosh!”

“Tina, you fat lard, come get some dinner! Tina! Eat the food!”

You think anyone wants a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these bad boys? Forget about it.”

“Napoleon, don’t be jealous that I’ve been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know that I’m training to be a cage fighter.”

Finally, my personal favorite:

“I see you’re drinking 1%. Is that ’cause you think you’re fat? ‘Cause you’re not. You could totally be drinking whole if you wanted to.”

Best. Pickup. Line. Ever. 


Overall, I love this movie. Not my favorite movie, but would I bring it to a deserted island? Yes. 

“Napoleon Dynamite” will always be one of those weird indie films that I hold close to my heart, and I can’t wait to watch it years from now and laugh at the same dumb humor. The dry, monotone nature continues to inspire the vision of my own future indie films. 

I hope people understand how important this movie is to the wallflowers, the outsiders and the kids that just struggle to fit in. “Napoleon Dynamite” proves that you don’t need to please people in order to fit in. You just have to be yourself and roll with it. 

I give this movie a 4.5 out of 5. 

More than likely, you’re not going to understand this movie at all, but that’s okay because you don’t have to. Just experience it. That’s all the movie is really asking for.