After graduating from Brigham Young University, Jared and Jerusha Hess started filming the classic film “Napoleon Dynamite.” In the rural town of Preston, Idaho, where Jared Hess attended high school, the tater-tot eating and socially awkward Napoleon Dynamite was created — in an indie film.
When did Napoleon Dynamite come out?
The film entered the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 17, 2004, per Decider. It’s one of those movies that exploded even though it was completed on a small budget. It grossed over $46 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo, and has become a classic.
Now the film is approaching its 20th anniversary and the cast has plans for a reunion. Decider said cast members Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Jon Gries (Uncle Rico) and Efren Ramirez (Pedro) will gather at the Bilheimer Capitol Theater in February 2024 for a screening of the film and a discussion afterwards.
The event, which takes place in Clearwater, Florida, is already sold out.
Why do so many people like Napoleon Dynamite?
“I don’t even have any good skills. You know, like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills,” Napoleon Dynamite says in the film. He’s a lanky teenager who stuffs tater tots in his pockets and is awkward around girls. While he appears nerdy, he’s not a savant like other similar characters (example — Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon”).
The film is a realistic coming-of-age movie that shows Napoleon struggling to fit in, experiencing classic high school events like prom and searching for his own independence. But one of the differences is Napoleon doesn’t seem to long to fit in. When all’s said and done, he’s comfortable with who he is and doesn’t notice his awkwardness.
Even though the film follows fictional characters, it’s also based on director Jared Hess’ life. In fact, after the film premiered at Sundance, HuffPost reported his mother came up to him and said, “Well, that was a lot of embarrassing family material.”
Heder’s iconic hair (which was permed and had to be re-curled, according to Hess in the Deseret News) and “Vote for Pedro” shirt had all the makings of a cultural moment. And well, that cultural moment has persisted. Stores like Kohl’s and Walmart still carry their version of the shirt.
The film also had several iconic scenes and quotes. One of the most famous is the scene where Napoleon does his dance in front of the school. At the time, Hess reportedly told Heder, “Yeah, it’s going to be the climax for the film; you dancing.”
Originally, Insider said he was supposed to be dancing to a Michael Jackson song, “Off the Wall.” The song they ended up going with was Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat,” but Heder had to dance to multiple songs because they were unsure which would get licensed.
Insider reported, “Both creatives agree that the scene wouldn’t have been quite the same if they hadn’t secured the rights to ‘Canned Heat,’ but that ultimately, the success of the scene came down to the hilarious visual of Heder’s character dancing his heart out.”
People may like “Napoleon Dynamite” because the material in the film is funny and relatable. And, well, it’s actually just a very quotable movie.
Is ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ streaming anywhere?
You can watch “Napoleon Dynamite” on Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, Roku, Google Play, Apple TV, HBO Max and Redbox.