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Napoleon Dynamite is a new kind of hero, complete with a tight red 'fro, sweet moon boots, and skills that can't be topped. Napoleon spends his days drawing mythical beasts, duking it out with his brother, Kip, and avoiding his scheming Uncle Rico. When two new friends enter Napoleon's life - shy Deb and mustachioed Pedro - the trio launches a campaign to elect Pedro for class president and make the student body's wildest dreams come true. But if Pedro is to beat by stuck-up Summer, Napoleon will have to unleash his secret weapon...
For more about Napoleon Dynamite and the Napoleon Dynamite Blu-ray release, see the Napoleon Dynamite Blu-ray Review
Starring: Jon Heder
Director: Jared Hess
» See full cast & crew
Napoleon Dynamite Blu-ray Review
Almost as sweet as a liger
Reviewed by Ben Williams, March 19, 2009
The Sundance Film Festival has become a Mecca for young and aspiring filmmakers in search of an audience for their films. Almost every year at Sundance, a single film manages to captivate audiences, building buzz and finding success in theaters. 2004 was the year of Napoleon Dynamite, an unlikely success that moved from being a cult phenomenon to achieving legitimate mass popularity, making stars out of its lead actors in the process. It's a truly weird movie that still manages to be as exceptionally bizarre as it is hilarious. I'll admit to being completely perplexed by the film upon seeing it in theaters; I just stared at the screen wondering what in the hell I was witnessing. Audiences, however, seemed to fall in love with the film's strangely endearing characters, embarrassing social situations and stunted dialogue. Is there a point to Napoleon Dynamite; some deeper meaning behind each and every characters' ludicrous behavior, or is the film simply a celebration of dorky high school outcasts?
Uber-dweeb Napoleon Dynamite (John Heder) thinks he's the baddest mo-fo in existence. He's clueless, possibly brain-damaged and socially inept; he's the butt of all the jokes at school. Napoleon lives with his brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) and his adventure-seeking Grandma (Sandy Martin), in a nameless farming community that would drive the biggest optimist insane with boredom. Between girly slap-fights with his brother, being forced to feed his Grandma's pet Llama and drawing pictures of fantasy creatures and fellow classmates, Napoleon seems to exist in some sort of spaced-out, drooling, state of near unconsciousness. Perhaps he's just bored. When Napoleon's and Kip's Grandma is injured in a dune buggy accident, their Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) shuffles into town to keep an eye on the two weirdos. Uncle Rico is a former high school football star who can't quite get over his former successes. He's come up with a new scheme to pitch a breast enlargement formula to the local residents, enlisting Kip and Napoleon to help sell the product. Somehow, around this same time, Napoleon befriends the new kid in town; an equally comatose kid named Pedro (Efran Ramirez). Between run-ins with a strange girl named Deb (Tina Majorino), his brother's internet dating schemes, Uncle Rico's penchant for offending local ladies and the impending school prom, Napoleon suddenly has plenty to concentrate on. Perhaps Pedro has the answer to Napoleon's problems?
Perhaps the most unintentionally insulting praise I can direct at Jon Heder for his performance in Napoleon Dynamite, is that when I finally saw him in interviews after seeing him in the film, I was legitimately surprised to discover that he isn't developmentally challenged; he's just that convincing. I should have known better, though, as all the characters in the film are genuinely strange and display a series of funky personality traits that are as fascinating as they are hilarious. The character of Napoleon Dynamite (is that actually his name?) seems to be some sort of super-dork who lives in a world of his own. He's clearly maladjusted in some way; heck, he's not even particularly smart like most social outcasts portrayed in films. He's just kind of a clueless, dumb guy. Tina Majorino barely speaks in the film; she just kind of shows up from time to time, looking odd and slightly disheveled, with her side-of-the-head ponytail signaling her status as an outcast. Her lack of dialogue is a trait that many actors in the film also share. Efran Ramirez's Pedro is much the same; he speaks in monosyllabic short phrases and he spends most of the movie staring into space.
Kip and Uncle Rico are two of the most verbose characters in the film. Both are regular chatterboxes when compared to the rest of the cast. Kip's internet dating adventures supply some of the heartiest laughs of the film, while Rico's money-making schemes somehow manage to make the movie feel slightly more realistic. Don't ask me how; I'm not exactly sure why this is, but perhaps it's simply because Rico has a personality, unlike most of the film's other characters.
So, why is Napoleon Dynamite a decent, funny movie? I still can't put my finger on it; perhaps it's because the film is so utterly ridiculous and unnerving, one only can react with laughter? Perhaps it's the desolate setting; maybe it's Napoleon's cluelessness? Are we laughing with him or at him? I still can't figure it out. All I can say is that after seeing the film for the first time and having an experience that left me completely baffled, the movie has become more and more entertaining with each repeat viewing. To paraphrase United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, I shall not today attempt further to define what makes Napoleon Dynamite funny… but I know funny when I see it. Highly recommended.
Napoleon Dynamite Blu-ray, Video Quality
While hardly being the kind of movie destined to achieve reference status, Napoleon Dynamite actually looks pretty darn great on Blu-ray, especially considering the film's low budget origins. Presented in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and in full 1080p, Napoleon Dynamite takes full advantage of first rate AVC Mpeg-4 encoding to achieve a film-like and pleasing image. Fine film grain is present throughout the movie; it always remains appropriate, never excessive or noisy. The film elements used for this transfer are also first rate and remain free of dirt, scratches or noticeable print damage.
Napoleon Dynamite is surprisingly colorful, in spite of its intentionally boring photographic style. Vivid colors pepper each scene and add a welcome and vibrant tone to the film. The movie is relatively sharp, delivering a moderate amount of fine detail that is apparent in fabrics, skin and architectural textures. Contrast is a bit blown out; black levels are slightly elevated and never achieve true reference levels. Thankfully, digital anomalies aren't an issue. Napoleon Dynamite has been treated with care and attention to detail with this Blu-ray release. Highly recommended!
Napoleon Dynamite Blu-ray, Audio Quality
One would be hard-pressed to find a more boring soundtrack than that of Napoleon Dynamite. It's flat, bland, unexciting and as plain as can be. Fox has utilized 5.1 DTS- HD Master Audio for the release; this soundtrack, paired with such an advanced audio codec, is the equivalent of putting a Ferrari engine in a Yugo. There's so little happening on the track, it might as well be monaural. Fans of music performed on an old Hammond organ, however, will love how the film's sweet score occasionally drifts into the rear channels. The operative word in that last sentence was "occasionally."
What's left is dialogue; every mumbled, strained and monotonous line. It's all crystal clear, ensuring that every subtle sigh and grumble is remarkably transparent. There's not really much more to say about Napoleon Dynamite. If you were expecting the film to sound like a Hollywood action movie, then you've clearly suffered a head trauma. If that's the case, stop reading and seek medical attention. For those of you still reading, in spite of the uncomplicated nature of this audio track, it's remarkably accurate. Recommended.
Napoleon Dynamite Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Here's what's included:
- Feature Audio Commentary with Director / Writer Jared Hess, Actor Jon Heder and Producer Jeremy Coon
- Cast Audio Commentary with Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Jon Gries and Tina Majorino
- "World Premier: Jared Hess"
- "On Location: Napoleon Dynamite"
- "Casting Napoleon Dynamite"
- "The Wedding of the Century"
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Napoleon Sightings - And Pedro
- Utah State Fair Ads & TV Spots
- MTV On-Air Promos
- Still Gallery
- Audition Videos
The thing that strikes me as odd with this selection of special features for Napoleon Dynamite, is that for such a profoundly bizarre movie, these supplements are relatively pedestrian. That's not to say that there aren't a ton of excellent materials presented for review, it's just that I expected more weirdness. At any rate, Fox has included two commentary tracks, one with Director Jared Hess, Jon Heder and Producer Jeremy Coon, and another with various cast members. Both are highly entertaining, though a little light on juicy details. Several light-weight featurettes are worth skipping, but "Peluca," the short film that served as inspiration for Napoleon Dynamite, is worth every second of your time. Fans of deleted scenes will be pleased; I was glad to see the MTV promos and Utah State Fair ads. Napoleon Dynamite makes for a enjoyable experience where supplements are concerned. Recommended!
Napoleon Dynamite Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As the sleeper comedy hit of 2004, Napoleon Dynamite managed to find an unlikely audience despite its microscopic budget and lack of big-name stars. It's a weird flick, to be sure; I still can't tell you exactly why its so damn funny. The film's exceedingly strange characters proved to be breakout roles for both Jon Heder and Tina Majorino; both have gone on to respectable acting careers in the wake of the film's success. Fox brings Napoleon Dynamite to Blu-ray with a surprisingly solid video transfer and passable audio; the film's low budget limits the film from ever looking or sounding any better. Supplementary features are robust, but could have been a little more bizarre to better mesh with the mood of the film. Napoleon Dynamite is a film that requires patience. It's not an immediate knee-slapper; it grows on you, becoming more subtly hilarious with each viewing. Napoleon Dynamite is recommended. Sweet!
Napoleon Dynamite: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Napoleon Dynamite (5 bundles)
Napoleon Dynamite Blu-ray, News and Updates
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