Why “Napoleon Dynamite”'s Jon Heder Says It's Actually a Perfect Family Film: 'Anybody Can Love It' (Exclusive)

The cult classic was released 20 years ago, and the film's star, Jon Heder, says it holds up — and is something innocent enough for parents and kids to watch together

<p>Michael Loccisano/Getty</p> Jon Heder in 2024

Michael Loccisano/Getty

Jon Heder in 2024

Families are still taking their kids back to Preston High School — and Jon Heder is happy to see it.

In an interview with PEOPLE, Heder, 46, says he has loved seeing the interest among a younger generation, even as the coming-of-age teen comedy turns 20. "It's like anybody can love it," he says, noting that there's no cursing, and nothing R-rated about the movie, which first debuted in theaters on June 11, 2004.

"We've met so many families that are just like, 'It's the one movie our whole family loves to watch together. It's the one thing that unites us. Like my dad or my grandpa who doesn't care about movies at all, will sit down with us and he'll chuckle out this movie.' We hear those stories all the time, and it's the best," the actor says.

Earlier this year, the star kicked off a reunion tour with Napoleon castmates Efren Ramirez and Jon Gries, giving fans the opportunity to ask the trio their burning questions about the cult classic and even challenge them to a “Canned Heat” dance-off.

Related: Where Napoleon Dynamite Characters Would Be 20 Years Later, According to Its Stars: 'Not Looking Very Good'

<p>Michael Loccisano/Getty</p> From Left: Shondrella Avery, Efren Ramirez, Jon Heder and Jon Gries

Michael Loccisano/Getty

From Left: Shondrella Avery, Efren Ramirez, Jon Heder and Jon Gries

Heder notes that — though the target demographic for the reunion dates are usually closer to his age — there is a more youthful representation in the audience as well.

“What’s great is we’ve got a lot of families, we get a lot of people who are bringing their kids,” tells PEOPLE. At their shows, he adds, the stars typically take an informal poll to gauge who has seen the movie, and often “a lot of the younger generation” says they have.

But for Heder’s four kids, whom he shares with wife Kirsten Bales, it’s a different story. “My kids have a different approach to it,” he says. “They don’t love it, but they don’t hate it.”

“To them, it’s like a magic word — if you say ‘Napoleon,’ you’re going to get a reaction out of someone,” Hader adds, recalling how his young ones have a tendency to bring up Napoleon Dynamite when they meet new people in public.

<p>Jesse Grant/Getty</p> Jon Heder (center) with three of his kids

Jesse Grant/Getty

Jon Heder (center) with three of his kids

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Heder says that he recently showed his youngest Napoleon over the holidays after she was “begging to watch it.” It turns out that “she liked it,” he shares. “She wasn’t like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ She hasn’t been watching it over and over. But she has a good attitude about it.”

Unlike their father — whose credits also include Blade of Glory and The Benchwarmer — his kids have less of the acting bug. Only his oldest is into drama and the stage, with Heder noting that all four of them are “so vastly different.”

<p>Alamy</p> Jon Heder in 'Napoleon Dynamite'


Jon Heder in 'Napoleon Dynamite'

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Heder will continue his Napoleon Dynamite reunion tour into 2025, stopping for a panel at Mississippi Comic Con from June 22 to June 23.

Napoleon Dynamite is streaming on Hulu.

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