By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 09, 2004 at 5:07 AM

{image1}Don't be fooled into thinking that Jared Hess' "Napoleon Dynamite" is an Elvis Costello-related film. Rather it is a hyped-up Wes Anderson-style nerd comedy.

Set in Hess' rural hometown of Preston, Idaho, the 90-minute film at first brings to mind Todd Solondz's 1995 "Welcome to the Dollhouse," thanks to its tight focus on one particular nerdy high school kid: Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), with his shock of rosy frizz, moon boots and his selection of dorky T-shirts.

But, unlike, "Dollhouse," we don't feel much sympathy for the anti-hero, rather we just point and laugh at him, much like the majority of his school mates do.

Napoleon lives with his good times grandma and closeted gay brother Kip (Aaron Ruell). When grandma goes out dune buggying, pathetic and pseudo-suave Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) comes to stay with the brothers, who seem a bit old to need a babysitter, especially one as self-involved and dimwitted as Rico.

Napoleon, of course, has no friends. Until, that is, he meets the new kid Pedro (Efren Ramirez), who has all the vim and vigor of a 1960s cartoon Mexican stereotype.

That's the main problem with "Napoleon Dynamite" -- all the characters are over-the-top stereotypes.

Napoleon's love interest Deb (Tina Majorino) is the quirky, mildly cute, shy girl (although she has a business doing glamour photography). Pedro is the kind of character that ought to have Mexican Americans shouting, "foul!," and Rico's obsession with his high school football career is so overplayed it ceases to be comedy. And let's not even discuss Kip.

In the end, some laughs do come (it's helpful if Napoleon's voice actually reminds you of someone you know!). However, it's hard to tell if Hess is poking good-natured fun at Idahoans or if he's as mean-spirited as his film sometimes seems.

Ignore the hype, expect a decent, but not great, geek chic experience and you won't be disappointed.

"Napoleon Dynamite" opens Friday, July 9 at Landmark's Oriental Theatre.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.