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MGM Studios DVD presents
Napoleon (1994)

Echidna: Everyone makes fun of the way I look.Napoleon: I think you look sharp! Echidna: You see? Typical.
- Wallace Shawn, Adam Wylie

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: February 14, 2002

Stars: Adam Wylie, Bronson Pinchot, David Ogden Stiers, Carol Kane
Other Stars: Joan Rivers, Stuart Pankin, Wallace Shawn, Wendy Makkena
Director: Mario Andreacchio

Manufacturer: Sunset Digital
MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 01h: 21m: 20s
Release Date: March 06, 2001
UPC: 027616859143
Genre: family

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B-B C-

DVD Review

You can probably hear the clarion cry once somebody gets a hold of the case for this DVD: "What a cute puppy!" Make fun if you will, but it's hard to resist the little furball that is the title character here—if you're not an animal lover, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. But if you are, or have kids who are, Napoleon provides a nice little diversion. Muffin is a cute little doggie looking to toughen himself up, so he insists that everyone call him Napoleon. (Actors provide voices for the animals, and we never see human beings full on; it's also the conceit of the movie that all the animals can understand one another, and that animals can speak without moving their mouths. If you're thinking too hard about this while you're watching, you're not in the spirit of things.) Napoleon dreams of grandeur, of wild adventures, but is terrorized by a bunch of little kids at a birthday party, who set him afloat on an inflatable raft in a swimming pool. Oh, the humiliation. Napoleon slips into a birthday balloon bouquet, and inadvertently sends it aloft—soon he's leaving the comforts of Mom and the doghouse for an adventure in the wild. (The movie was shot in Australia—if the Sydney Opera House isn't a giveaway, the kangaroos and koalas are—but the animals speak with accents from all over the English-speaking world.) Napoleon is off in search of the wild dogs he hears barking in the distance, and his adventures take him to the desert, to snowcapped mountains, and to the high seas. There's a casual disregard for geography, but again, kids probably aren't looking for story holes. A few of the jokes here are clearly just for the older folks, and that's fine. For instance, Napoleon's best friend in the wild is a cockatoo named: Birdolucci. And the members of his flock bear the names of other Italian and Italian-American film directors: Roberto, Federico, Vittorio, and Marty. Napoleon encounters a crazed housecat in the wild, who takes every animal for a mouse, who must be killed. It's hard not to laugh at the insane feline going after the dog and the bird, huffing and puffing: "Must destroy yellow mouse and little flying mouse." (I especially liked the cat's P.O.V. shots, sort of a Kittycam.) Particularly noteworthy among the voiceover artists is Dame Edna Everage as a loopy kangaroo, and Joan Rivers and Stuart Pankin as a pair of penguins apparently straight from the Catskills, whose child wants to follow Napoleon's model, and renames himself Iceberg: "Didn't you have a cousin named Iceberg?" "That was Weisberg!" There are a couple of songs in here, to pad out the action, and they're fine, though they do seem a bit arbitrary. (If you're not into talking animals, chances are you're not into talking animals singing show tunes.) But truly no animals were harmed in the making of this picture, and nothing bad befalls any of the onscreen critters, either. Napoleon, of course, proves himself to be a valiant little puppy, and safely returns home to his worried mother, in reasonably satisfying fashion. It's easy to imagine the preschool crowd readily going for the remote to cue this one up again, though I should say that my dog was not particularly interested in watching one of her kind on screen.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: I guess MGM thinks that the kids can't handle the big black bars on the top and bottom of the screen, but the fact that Napoleon is offered only in a pan-and-scan version is unfortunate. Transfer is reasonably good—colors are generally sharp, though some of the matte shots are laughably bad. (When Napoleon careens down some rocks, it's pretty clearly a stuffed animal instead of a stunt dog in the basket.) Unless you're raising a little Gordon Willis, the image should be satisfactory for the target audience.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The musical numbers don't fare well in this audio transfer; maybe it's the orchestrations, but they all sound a little limp. The audio is generally satisfactory and clear enough, but the level of ambient sound is uneven throughout the picture.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Nothing particular on hand here, just a trailer and chapter stops. Menu should be easily navigable by little fingers, though.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

If the kids are pestering you about getting a dog, you can probably keep them at bay (for a little while, anyway) with a couple of viewings of Napoleon. Even the most stone-hearted dog hater will be hard pressed not to find the little beast pretty cute, and there are enough dollops to keep the big people interested and laughing, for the first viewing, anyway.


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