Napoleon Dynamite DVD
by Cookieman

Napoleon Dynamite is an odd character for sure, with his shaggy red afro, moon boots (he wears them year `round), and t-shirts usually featuring those glossy iron-ons so popular in the 70's (he seems to purchase much of his wardrobe at the local thrift store) with a penchant for drawing mythical creatures, boasting about fictional girlfriends who live in other states (don't they always?), and touting his non-existent martial arts abilities, "You know, there's like a b*tt-load of gangs at this school. This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bowstaff". Oh yeah, he breathes mostly through his mouth, and his vernacular includes, but isn't limited to, the liberal usage of such words like sweet, flippin', gosh, freakin', and heck, and he, along with his 32 year old brother Kip ( Aaron Ruell), live with their grandmother (the brilliant Sandy Martin), who owns a llama named Tina. After an ATV accident sends grandma to the hospital, Uncle Rico ( Jon Gries who garnered an IFA acting nod for Best Supporting Actor) arrives to watch over the boys, and involves Kip in his schemes to make some sweet cash. Napoleon, meanwhile, finds a friend in a newly arrived Hispanic student named Pedro (played to perfection by Efren Ramirez) and he and their shy and kinda dorky friend Deb ( Tina Majorino) assist Pedro in his bid to become the next student body president, their competition being Summer ( Hayley Duff), member of the cheerleading squad and the most popular girl in school. Do the trio have a chance in beating the juggernaut that is Summer? Perhaps, but it requires Napoleon to pull forth from within something no one would have realized he had, not even himself...

The film is's kind of a mix of the Coen brothers (Fargo, Raising Arizona), John Waters (Crybaby), and the earlier films of John Hughes (Sixteen Candles). There's not much of a story at the beginning, more of a series of innocuous, unrelated, comical events, but later on we do see some development in this area with regards to Napoleon and Deb helping Pedro in his running for student body president. Some scenes will make little or no sense in relation to what you may perceive as the story, so my recommendation is to just let it go, and enjoy the film for what it is, whatever it is...the real fun lies within Heder and his complete submersion into the character of Napoleon, wallowing in his own uncoolness. Initially most will probably find him annoying and off-putting, but he sort of grew on me, and I actually found myself quietly rooting for him, in his most simple of endeavors (like trying to find a sweet fanny pack at the local thrift store), but don't get the wrong impression. This isn't a triumphant nerd film (the nerd beats the jocks and/or gets the head cheerleader in the end), but a character-driven slice of weirdness that has a tendency to amuse. The dialog contains tons of quotable lines, and comes across genuine sense of realism. The composed music by John Swihart and chosen pre-recorded material used to make the soundtrack complemented the film very well. I think my favorite scene is when Napoleon discovers his uncle's crude time machine (which he purchased of the Internet), and decides to give it a try...does it work? Well, it does something, but I won't tell you thing I really noticed was an absolute absence of profanity. I'm not against its' usage in films, and have even become used to it (for better or worse), so it was kinda refreshing.

The picture quality, presented in both 1.85:1 anamorphic wide screen and 1.33:1 full screen (both sides of the DVD are used), looks sharp and clear, with the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio coming through very well. Special features are numerous and include a commentary track by the director/writer Hess, actor Heder, and producer Jeremy Coon, along with deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a short film entitled `Peluca' (basically the original concept for the character of Napoleon Dynamite, also with commentary), a number of MTV promotional spots, a still gallery, a featurette on the shooting of the final scene (keep watching the film after the credits to see a newly filmed 4 minute sequence shot a year after the film was released, made especially for the DVD release).



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