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Fox Home Entertainment presents
"I see you're drinking 1% milk. Is that because you think you're fat? Because you're not. You could probably be drinking whole milk."
DVD ReviewJust like its title character, Napoleon Dynamite is a film that is so quirky that it becomes impossible to have anything but an unabashed love for it by the time the credits roll. Released to only a handful of theaters in June of 2004, the film built up steam and slowly became not only one of the biggest surprises of the summer but also an absolutely certain cult film in years to come.
Napoleon Dynamite doesn't have much plot to speak of. Instead, writer/director Jared Hess simply introduces us to Napoleon's (Heder) world with a meandering joy. Heder and his fellow cast members play the material just right, toeing the fine line between satire and stupid humor. The most astonishing revelation is that it never feels like a comedy, yet there are moments that even now make me chuckle just thinking about them.
Napoleon Dynamite is a high school student living in Preston, Idaho, and his life is rather disastrous. He is an outcast, a nerd who makes every other similar charcater in movie history seem positively suave by comparison. He lives on a farm with his grandmother (Sandy Martin), brother Kip (Ruell), and uncle Rico (Gries), and just like at school, things at home are a disaster. The only two people in Napoleon's life that seem to understand him are Pedro (Ramirez), a new student from Mexico, and Deb (Majorino), an awkward girl who catches Napoleon's eye.
This is in essence the foundation for the events in a film that moves along as more of a collection of sketches than scenes. There is no cohesive story, aside from the boys' crush on Deb and an attempt to get Pedro voted class president, and the film may be better for its lack of a central plot device. With this easygoing tone, the film really begins to win you over with its genuine honesty and humor. Hess should be applauded for skipping the conventional theory that the nerdy guy has to become a handsome stud by just letting his characters be as they are. Had the film been about Napoleon's desire to be popular, it would fail miserably.
Without a proper plot mechanism to propel the action forward, the performances have to be right on target, and thankfully they are. Heder creates what is, in my opinion, the single best teen outcast ever printed to film. Heder has the mannerisms down perfectly and has mastered the most perfect extended sigh I have ever heard—his performance is worthy of an award. The film is also blessed with perfect supporting roles, most notably Ruell and Grimes who each manage to upstage Heder at several points during the film.
Hess crafts his supporting characters with real personalities so that they never fade into the background. Kip's desire to become a cage fighter and his hours spent in online chat rooms are some of the funniest bits to be found in the film, while Uncle Rico wishing he could relive his high school years is equally priceless.
This is as good as films about teenagers get and the fact that there is a sweetness to the humor makes it all the better. It carries a PG rating, and, sadly, after its only other recent equal, Saved, saw limited audiences after being rated PG-13, those who may learn the most from the film are allowed to see it. If there is a message in Napoleon Dynamite, it's perhaps to accept everyone for who they are, and teens who see the film will certainly be better for it.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Fox presents Napoleon Dynamite in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame image transfers. The film was shot on a low budget so the quality of the transfer is quite good considering the original look of the film. Colors are nicely balanced with no saturation or bleeding. There are moments of grain and edge enhancement, and the image also showed some signs of pixelation.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for Napoleon Dynamite is largely based in the center channel with the surround speakers coming through with a nice reinforcement of the songs on the soundtrack. Dialogue is crisp and clear with little to no distortion.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
9 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by actor John Heder, director Jared Hess, and editor Jeremy Coon
The commentary features actor John Heder, director/writer Jared Hess, and editor Jeremy Coon. The track largely focuses on script and production as Hess and crew talk about how certain scenes were created and how they also drew from childhood experiences. There is also a lot of time spent discussing the influences and creation behind certain characters.
The four deleted scenes offered are a mish-mash aside from one that boasts what I feel is the single greatest line of dialogue in the film. It involved Napoleon's encounter with the lead jock during a kickball game and had me laughing so hard I had to watch it a few more times—a first for me with excised scenes.
The still gallery is rather uneventful while the original short is fun but grows boring quickly. The MTV promos are worth checking out and are in tune with the film, being just as funny.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsNapoleon Dynamite is easily the most enjoyable and funniest comedy of the year. Thankfully, Fox has given fans of the film a sweet disc with some of the funniest bonus features I have seen in a long time. This is a film that should not be missed, so what are you waiting for, go get it, GOSH!
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