Napoleon Dynamite looks like Cary Grant next to the hero of this Kiwi quirk-a-thon: a hulking, sullen creep named Jarrod (Jemaine Clement, co-star of HBO’s new
Flight of the Conchords) whose goony sulking, petulant selfishness and dweeby videogame obsession somehow work like Spanish fly on mousy burger-flipper Lily (Loren Horsley). If the intent were to have Lily’s unconditional love redeem Jarrod, who plots half-assed revenge on the bully who thumped him a decade ago in high school, no such luck—her regard for the insufferable prick comes off more as sodden masochism, or maybe brain damage. You can’t see the forest for the twee in writer-director Taika Waititi’s thicket of cutesy conceits, from the stunted supporting characters to the precious animated interludes. But Jarrod’s strident ugliness definitely serves as a critique of geek-chic narcissism. Maybe Judd Apatow’s comedies also flatter the maturity-impaired by making their 10th-grade hang-ups lovable, but Apatow doesn’t leave you thinking less of the women who abide them.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 5, 2007