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NAPOLEON DYNAMITE
Like, the Best Special Edition Ever

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino, Diedrich Bader
Director: Jared Hess
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1:85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 94 Minutes
Release Date: May 16, 2006

“I wish you wouldn’t look at me like that, Napoleon.”

“I wish you’d get out of my life and SHUT UP!”

Film ***

Napoleon Dynamite is perhaps the first independent comedy to acquire some of the same eccentric qualities as that of a Wes Anderson film. It’s also a film that has come ultimately close to defining its own generation. Thanks to several film festivals and huge promotional support from MTV networks, the film quickly became one of the big film successes of 2004.

At first, I was simply turned off by the film I had seen being promoted. I’m always for something unique and original, but from what I could see, it appeared to be a film filled with eccentrically weird comedy simply for the sake of being eccentrically weird. The title character seemed to throw me off quite a bit as well.

But time played a big part in causing me to change my mind about wanting to see the film. I had been encouraged ruthlessly by friends who had seen the film to check it out. I came close once, but resisted. But thanks to the appealing new two disc release, I gave in and finally gave Napoleon Dynamite a chance. And I’m glad I did.

The story is basically an offbeat portrait of the oddest high schooler that we well ever have the pleasure of meeting in the movies. Napoleon (Jon Heder) is a nerd and then some. Living in a small town in Idaho, Napoleon just plans his days with a certain level of spontaneity. Amongst the high school population, he is pretty much off the radar, but that won’t stop him from unleashing his special “skills”, as he likes to put it.

In addition to his daily torments at school, Napoleon’s home life isn’t getting much better. After his grandmother is injured in a motorcycling accident (couldn’t make that up), his revered Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) is sent to watch over Napoleon and his brother, the equally odd Kip (Aaron Ruell). Once Uncle Rico, whose occupation is that of a pesky salesman, moves in to watch over the two, it’s clear to understand why he isn’t asked often to do so.

But Napoleon does manage to make a couple of new friends at school. The first is Pedro (Efren Ramirez), a foreign exchange student whom Napoleon inspires to run for class president. The other is the sweet and innocent Deb (Tina Majorino), who shares many of the same interests as Napoleon. In spite of this, he is just too nervous to make that crucial step.

So our hero finds his purpose by helping Pedro in the class president campaign. This will also cause him to discover a new type of special skill; that of a mighty groove dance. This leads to one of the most gut busting scenes in recent movie memory. Napoleon’s moves come into play in a scene of physical movement that will have you on the floor.

Even though I may not find it to be the cinematic classic that so many have dubbed it, Napoleon Dynamite is nonetheless a terrifically unique piece of comedy, with one of the most original characters you will ever come across. So don’t be a friggin’ IDIOT, and check out this SWEET movie.

GOSH!!!

Video ***1/2

Fox’s anamorphic presentation is a most terrific one. The film consists of many brightly lit daytime shots, which are rendered in pure top notch quality. The rural setting of Idaho makes for many terrific moments in the video performance. A spot of slight grain is detected briefly but it’s hardly a major distraction. The overall detail in the video quality is nothing short of outstanding.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix has many sweet moments, which I didn’t see coming in a dialogue driven film. A lot of the sound kick comes out of the music on the soundtrack. John Swihart’s music score is definitely the kind of eccentric score fitted for an independent release. In addition, music tracks by The White Stripes,  Jamiroquai and Cyndi Lauper sound superb and dynamic. To top it all off, the film closes with a cherished 80s track I haven’t heard in ages, “The Promise” by When in Rome, and I have forgotten how much I love that song.

Features ****

As the back of the case indicates, these are some truly SWEET FEATURES. Fox has reissued the movie in an awesome 2-Disc edition, titled “Like, the Best Special Edition Ever”, which is no doubt going to please the film’s many fans.

Disc One includes the feature film as well as two commentary tracks; the first with director and co-writer Jared Hess, actor Jon Heder and producer Jeremy Coon. The second commentary features cast members Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Jon Gries and Tina Majorino.

Disc Two contains even more goodies, including an all new making of documentary titled “On Location: Napoleon Dynamite”, as well as “World Premiere: Jared Hess” which takes a close up look at the director of the film. Also included are Deleted/Extended Scenes with Commentary by Jared Hess, Jon Heder and Jeremy Coon, all new outtakes and additional Extended/Alternate Scenes. Featured as well are audition clips, Napoleon and Pedro Sightings, the original short film, “Peluca”, with optional commentary, “The Wedding of the Century” featurette, Promo spots and a still photo gallery.

Summary:

It took me a while to get me to take a trip to the world of Napoleon Dynamite, but I’m glad I did instead of never having taken it at all. This awesomely sweet new 2-disc release from Fox is the absolute perfect reason to either re-discover the film or see it for the very first time.

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