Jared Hess

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Napoleon Dynamite Review


Excellent
If one had to find a problem with teenage underdog movies, one of the most prominent ones would have to be that they always seem to want audiences to feel sympathy for the plight of their sad protagonists. In Napoleon Dynamite, even though the hero of the title (Jon Heder) is a four-eyed teenage misfit with no social skills and a truly frightening haircut - and he couldn't care less. Napoleon Dynamite is confident about his ability to draw fantasy characters in the pages of his Trapper Keeper ("I'm pretty much the best at it") and isn't afraid to voice his approval when something goes his way ("Sweet!") or get pissy when somebody asks him what he's doing that day ("Whatever I feel like doing, gosh!"). He's a hero for the ages; it's just not entirely clear what age.

Napoleon Dynamite isn't much of a film, when you break it down outside the theater, when the cheers have died away and you're left with the nagging question: But what was it about? Napoleon attends high school in a small Idaho town, living with his much older but just as dweeby brother, Kip (Aaron Ruell) and his grandmother who, at the start of the film, has just landed herself in the hospital after a four-wheeler accident. This precipitates sleazoid Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), with his dreams of lost football glory and ideas about door-to-door sales, moving into the house to watch the boys and generally make them feel crappy about themselves. There's the barest hint of a storyline about Napoleon getting a crush on a girl from his class, Deb (Tina Majorino), but that's really only there to give him somebody to dance with at the prom. Slightly better is Napoleon's friendship with the nearly-mute Pedro (Efren Ramierez), the new kid in school, and the battle they wage against the cool clique in order to win Pedro the school presidency. Oh, and there's a big joke about tater tots - Election it ain't.

Continue reading: Napoleon Dynamite Review

Nacho Libre Review


OK

Husband-and-wife filmmakers Jared and Jerusha Hess share a bizarre sense of humor, one that's difficult to categorize but apparently pretty popular. They know what amuses them, be it an eccentric sight gag or a particular turn of phrase, and they stand by their decisions whether they fit the context of their chosen story or not. They co-write scripts for Jared to direct and pay specific attention to individual words that might score bigger laughs. Rarely would a character in their movie say "pants," for example, because "slacks" or "trousers" sounds more unique.

Is there an audience for the Hess' brand of comedy? You better believe it. Their initial collaboration, Napoleon Dynamite, was a win-win for Fox Searchlight that catapulted beyond its expected cult status and became a surprise mainstream hit. The duo's anticipated follow-up film, Nacho Libre, maintains the same odd cadence and strange plotting as Dynamite (though there's more of a story, which in a roundabout way is a compliment), but banks its fortunes on the go-for-broke antics of comedian Jack Black.

Continue reading: Nacho Libre Review

Napoleon Dynamite Review


Excellent
If one had to find a problem with teenage underdog movies, one of the most prominent ones would have to be that they always seem to want audiences to feel sympathy for the plight of their sad protagonists. In Napoleon Dynamite, even though the hero of the title (Jon Heder) is a four-eyed teenage misfit with no social skills and a truly frightening haircut - and he couldn't care less. Napoleon Dynamite is confident about his ability to draw fantasy characters in the pages of his Trapper Keeper ("I'm pretty much the best at it") and isn't afraid to voice his approval when something goes his way ("Sweet!") or get pissy when somebody asks him what he's doing that day ("Whatever I feel like doing, gosh!"). He's a hero for the ages; it's just not entirely clear what age.

Napoleon Dynamite isn't much of a film, when you break it down outside the theater, when the cheers have died away and you're left with the nagging question: But what was it about? Napoleon attends high school in a small Idaho town, living with his much older but just as dweeby brother, Kip (Aaron Ruell) and his grandmother who, at the start of the film, has just landed herself in the hospital after a four-wheeler accident. This precipitates sleazoid Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), with his dreams of lost football glory and ideas about door-to-door sales, moving into the house to watch the boys and generally make them feel crappy about themselves. There's the barest hint of a storyline about Napoleon getting a crush on a girl from his class, Deb (Tina Majorino), but that's really only there to give him somebody to dance with at the prom. Slightly better is Napoleon's friendship with the nearly-mute Pedro (Efren Ramierez), the new kid in school, and the battle they wage against the cool clique in order to win Pedro the school presidency. Oh, and there's a big joke about tater tots - Election it ain't.

Continue reading: Napoleon Dynamite Review

Jared Hess

Jared Hess Quick Links

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