Napoleon Dynamite's house
When indie comedy 'Napoleon Dynamite' was released in 2004, audiences were sharply divided between a happy majority who who found its deadpan portrayal of small-town geekdom hilariously offbeat and a smaller group who thought it condescending, disjointed and just plain unfunny. Whichever camp one falls in, it's undeniable that Jared Hess' unique first feature (co-written with his wife, Jerusha) not only recouped its $400,000 budget many times over, but made quite a cultural impact. (Check out how many recreations of "Napoleon Dynamite Dance" there are on Youtube.)

Jon Heder made a truly remarkable film debut with his embodiment of Napoleon, an alienated über-geek who lives with his grandmother, equally nerdy older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) and a llama; and who, of course, is regularly bullied at school. When grandma is injured in an accident, clueless yet aggressive Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) looks after the boys and causes yet more problems for Napoleon, including a fall-out with Deb (Tina Majorino), the classmate he has a crush on. A kind of salvation comes in the form of Pedro (Efren Ramirez), an equally ostracized transfer student from Mexico who, with Napoleon's help, runs for class president against a popular girl. The culmination of the campaign (and movie) is Napoleon's inspired dance routine in front of the student body. Surprisingly, things end well for everyone concerned.
Napoleon Dynamite's house
When indie comedy 'Napoleon Dynamite' was released in 2004, audiences were sharply divided between a happy majority who who found its deadpan portrayal of small-town geekdom hilariously offbeat and a smaller group who thought it condescending, disjointed and just plain unfunny. Whichever camp one falls in, it's undeniable that Jared Hess' unique first feature (co-written with his wife, Jerusha) not only recouped its $400,000 budget many times over, but made quite a cultural impact. (Check out how many recreations of "Napoleon Dynamite Dance" there are on YouTube.)

Jon Heder made a truly remarkable film debut with his embodiment of Napoleon, an alienated über-geek who lives with his grandmother, equally nerdy older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) and a llama; and who, of course, is regularly bullied at school. When grandma is injured in an accident, clueless yet aggressive Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) looks after the boys and causes yet more problems for Napoleon, including a fall-out with Deb (Tina Majorino), the classmate he has a crush on. A kind of salvation comes in the form of Pedro (Efren Ramirez), an equally ostracized transfer student from Mexico who, with Napoleon's help, runs for class president against a popular girl. The culmination of the campaign (and movie) is Napoleon's inspired dance routine in front of the student body. Surprisingly, things end well for everyone concerned.

'Napoleon Dynamite'Location as character: Hess set the film almost entirely in his hometown of Preston, ID, where he spent his formative years lugging a camcorder around while shooting various projects. His alma mater, Preston High School, is the setting for much of the movie; there are scenes on the outside steps, and in the cafeteria, halls (with its colorful lockers) and, of course, the auditorium. (Actual school staffers and students appeared as extras.) Preston High, located at 151 East 200 South, is not far from the Spanish-tiled house used for Pedro's abode (outside of which the friends perform "sweet" bike jumps). The residence used for the exteriors of Napoleon's house is located on North Road (another place was used for interiors), and the thrift store where Napoleon purchases his awesome suit is actually Deseret Industries Thrift Shop on South State Street. Almost every location in the movie can still be found in or near Preston.

Historical significance: Preston is located in southeastern Idaho, close to the Utah border; the town was founded in the 1860s by Mormon pioneers. For several years after the release of 'Napoleon Dynamite,' Preston held a festival in its honor featuring several movie-themed events including a Tetherball Tournament, Tater Tot Eating Contest, and Moon Boot Dance. The movie has brought fans from all over the world to Preston, increasing its tourism business significantly. In 2005 the Idaho legislature approved a resolution commending the Hesses for producing the film, pointing out the benefits the movie has brought to the state, in addition to showcasing important aspects of Idaho's culture and economy (Tater Tots!).


Fun facts: Tina the llama is actually named Dolly and belonged to Jared Hess' mother; Uncle Rico's girlfriend, who rides up to him on her bike at the end of the film, is Aaron Ruell's wife in real life; Jon Heder made all of the drawings in the movie except the unicorn; he also helped make the boondoggle keychains between scenes.

Directions: By car from Salt Lake City: Take I-15 north out of Salt Lake to Exit 362; take a right on US-91 heading towards Logan. Stay on 91 all the way into Preston. (It is approximately two and half hours from Salt Lake.)

Visitor info: The Preston Chamber of Commerce, located at 49 North State Street (tel: 208-852-2703), welcomes 'Napoleon' fans. Its gift shop sells maps of the town's filming locations, along with t-shirts and other souvenirs..
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