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Quirky ‘Napoleon’ launches Heder to success

Marty Schroeder | Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Some think Jon Heder is the funniest thing since “Animal House.” Other claim he is nothing more than a mumbling idiot who may or may not be good with the Bo staff. Whatever you think, there is no denying that Heder, with his breakout role in the smash indie success “Napoleon Dynamite” and his most recent role opposite the comedy king Will Ferrell in “Blades of Glory,” is on his way to his own brand of comedy stardom. The only question is whether he can keep it up.

Born in the college town of Fort Collins, Colo., Heder grew up in a large family of six children alongside a twin brother, Daniel. Fluent in Japanese after spending time at a Mormon mission in Japan, Heder attended Brigham Young University where he befriended the future director of “Napoleon Dynamite,” Jared Hess.

This friendship would become a boon for Heder after he was cast in the short film “Peluca,” which would become the basis for “Napoleon Dynamite.”

With his monotone delivery and obsession with ligers, Heder’s Dynamite became a national darling. Shot in Preston, Idaho on a $400,000 budget, “Napoleon Dynamite” took the American film scene by storm. The title character had a little bit of everything geeky, nerdy and awkward – something just about everyone could relate to. With other comedies offering loudmouth jokes about topics better fit for the gutter, Heder infused “Napoleon Dynamite” with a humor that made any topic funny. Standing proud with his “Vote for Pedro” buttons and his immortal dance attack to the tune of Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat,” Heder stopped traditional comedy in its tracks and put himself on the map.

With the release of “Just Like Heaven,” Heder landed a role next to the prominent Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo. Although the film was generally poorly received, it was a welcome addition to Heder’s résumé. Following this, he starred in “The Benchwarmers.” Produced by Adam Sandler, it was panned by critics and saw Heder returning to the “Napoleon Dynamite” style humor that was brilliant the first time but was becoming cliché. Looking for a new outlet, Heder found a comedic role that still allowed him to explore his craft opposite Billy Bob Thornton in “School for Scoundrels.” Even though Todd Phillips’ script was accused of being sloppy and not up the standard of Billy Bob Thornton’s stature, it garnered attention for Heder.

“Blades of Glory,” starring both Heder and Ferrell, marked the biggest success for Heder since his debut in “Napoleon Dynamite.” Unlike his more recent comedies, “Blades of Glory” is loved by critics and doing very well at the box office. Propped by the star power of Ferrell, “Blades of Glory” still allows Heder to shine.

Being able to keep up with the energetic Ferrell is a feat in and of itself. But to be noted as funny while starring with Ferrell is quite an achievement. The future looks bright for Heder provided he keeps picking roles akin to his Jimmy MacElroy in “Blades of Glory.”

His next film, due out this year, is entitled “Moving McAllister.” Starring opposite Rutger Hauer and “That ’70s Show” star Mila Kunis, Heder seems to be delving into some roles that move away from the clueless funny-man stereotype that he has to fight in order to be successful. Heder is a talented actor and it would not be surprising if he moved on to bigger and brighter things in the not so distant future.