American actor Jon Heder was studying 3-D animation at Brigham Young University when he met Jared Hess, the director who would make his a familiar face. Hess cast Heder in his short film Peluca, and then in his full-length feature film Napoleon Dynamite. At 27, Heder had never appeared in a movie before, but the surprise success of the film gave him instant notoriety. Napoleon Dynamite was a quirky, low-budget comedy about a nerdy high-schooler in an outdated small town in rural Idaho. Heder's dead-on characterization struck a chord with audiences and the small independent film became a huge hit, raking in over 44 million dollars and winning the MTV Movie Award for Best Movie. Heder personally took home two awards from the ceremony himself, one for Breakthrough Male Performance, and one for Best Musical Performance, for his election dance.
Heder took a role in the Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy Just Like Heaven the next year, playing the slacker sidekick Darryl. He had an obvious knack for comedy, and so for his next project he starred alongside David Spade and Rob Schneider in the frat-boy comedy The Benchwarmers. Heder also lent his voice to the animated film Monster House and signed on to appear in the Todd Phillips remake of School for Scoundrels.
Of those three films, The Benchwarmers hit audiences first, in spring 2006. Described by one prominent critic as Revenge of the Nerds with an increased fart quotient and added projectile vomiting, this dumb-dumb frat comedy cast Heder, Spade and Schneider as a trio of losers who form a baseball team to thwart a bunch of elementary-school bullies; Heder played a booger-eating dork with an unhealthy degree of maternal attachment. The press trashed the film, and unsurprisingly, it scored at the box office, grossing in excess of 65 million dollars. Heder scored better on all fronts by voicing Reginald "Skull" Skulinski in the Steven Spielberg-produced, CG-animated family film Monster House, a spooky and funny romp about a home that begins devouring trick-or-treaters, and the three youngsters who set out to stop it.
The November 2006 release School for Scoundrels returned Heder to live-action material. In that picture (a remake of the 1960 British comedy classic by director Robert Hamer), Heder plays yet another variation on his Napoleon Dynamite character -- this one as Roger, a socially maladroit, backward meter reader who enrolls in a confidence-building course taught by Machiavellian teacher Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton), to gain the confidence to sway the girl of his dreams -- and ends up faced with the prof's nasty scheme to win the lass for himself. Unfortunately, the film (helmed by Old School director Todd Phillips) not only received a critical drubbing, but only reeled in about 21 million dollars at the box office.
As 2007 dawned, Heder struck gold by starring opposite Will Ferrell in the SNL funnyman's latest buddy comedy, Blades of Glory. The two portrayed figure skaters whose bitter rivalry leads to a much-publicized brawl at the Olympics, stripping them of their medals; the men subsequently decide to reattain their old glory by re-entering the Olympic competition as a figure-skating pair. In a most unusual turn of events, the picture not only received many outstanding reviews in the press, but became the top box-office grosser of its weekend. Later that year, Heder voiced a surfing penguin (Chicken Joe) in the CG-animated family comedy Surf's Up and moved into slightly deeper and more challenging onscreen material with the Warner Independent comedy drama Mama's Boy. In that film, directed by neophyte Tim Hamilton, Heder played a slacker who must reinvestigate his goals and priorities when his single mother (Diane Keaton) takes a self-help guru (Jeff Daniels) as her new beau. Heder appeared in When in Rome, a 2010 romantic comedy starring Kristen Bell, and played a supporting role as the lawyer of an aging musician in the family drama For Ellen (2011). The following year he reprised his role as Napoleon Dynamite (in a vocal capacity) for Napoleon Dynamite, the animated series.