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Napoleon Dynamite (2004) Print E-mail
Friday, 20 February 2009
Image“Napoleon Dynamite” is another terrific comedy film from 20th Century Fox.  Like “Office Space” it is a low-budget film that proves that you don’t need big names or budgets to create a truly magnificent comedy.  Like so many other films, it really only has a cult following.  I am always shocked at how many people have never heard of the film.  Well, there is no time like the present and a Blu-ray release to learn about it.

“Napoleon Dynamite” is a simple film that doesn’t have much in the way of plot or story, but it delivers plenty of independent laughs.  The film remained in theaters for about eight months, which is rather incredible.  For a film that only cost about $500,000 to make, it made about $44.5 million at the box office.  Not too shabby.

This film is Jon Heder’s break out role.  He plays Napoleon, a socially inept high-school student.  He lives with his grandmother who is always out with friends doing crazy stunts.  He also resides with his brother, Kip (Aaron Ruell), who is also quite a bit on the odd side.  When their grandmother gets into an accident, Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) is called in to housesit.  Rico is always on the lookout for an opportunity to score some cash.  He and Kip begin door-to-door selling.

Meanwhile, Napoleon befriends Pedro (Efren Ramirez), another outcast.  There is not much going on with the duo other than they talk about the oddest things.  Pedro fancies the popular girl girl in school, Summer (Haylie Duff).  Naturally, nothing ever comes to fruition between them.  After being bullied long enough, Napoleon persuade Pedro to run for class president, against Summer.

Napoleon also starts to develop a relationship with another odd student, Deb (Tina Majorino).  She is an artist that loves photography.  Of course, Uncle Rico is destined to screw things up between them.  The ending of the film is not conclusive.  It is rather abrupt.  Somehow it works for the film.

There is nothing to really tie the film together other than the amount of laughs.  Normally a film like this would be terrible reviews, but “Napoleon Dynamite” is a one-of-a-kind exception.

Sadly, the ultra low budget of the film is truly reflected in the video transfer of the film.  Once again, this is probably the best this film is ever going to look.  The black levels are awful, as is shadow delineation.  When that is combined with limited color presentation, we are presented a lackluster image that is flat and ugly.  There is a ton of film grain, which I actually prefer over digital noise reduction.  The image is also plagued with dust, dirt and scratches.  I didn’t spot any edge enhancement, which is nice.  Overall, the image is pretty good for an independent feature.  Still, the video is just subpar. The audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 and is about as lackluster as the video presentation.  Surround usage consists of mainly ambient sounds.  Localization of any type is nearly impossible for the rear channels.  The dialogue is front and center.  It is clear, but it seems to float above the rest of the sounds.  The original sound was poorly recorded on location.  The dialogue sounds comb-filtered.  The LFE channel is non-existent and should not be expected to factor into the soundtrack.  Dynamic range is steadfast in the middle.  There are no extreme pushes to either end of the spectrum.  Frequency responses is narrow.  The sound is fine, but it could have been a lot better with some more post-production sweetening.

The Blu-ray contains all the special features present in the special edition standard DVD release of the film.  All bonus materials are presented in standard definition.  First, there are outtakes and deleted scenes with commentary by director Jared Hess, Jeremy Coon and actor Jon Heder.  “Peluca” is the original short film that was later turned into “Napoleon Dynamite.”  The Blu-ray contains two audio commentary tracks for the film.  The first track is with director/co-writer Jared Hess, Producer Jeremy Coon and Actor Jon Heder.  There is nothing in this track that is really interesting.  I was disappointed to not find much coming from Heder.  There are a bunch of long silences.  The second track is a cast audio commentary with Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Jon Gries and Tina Majorino.  This track is much more interesting.  This track is full of laughs and information.  “The Making of ‘The Wedding of the Century’” is a brief standard featurette.  The Blu-ray also contains “On Location: Napoleon Dynamite,” “World Premiere – Jared Hess Documentary,” “Napoleon Sightings,” MTV On-Air Promo Spots and a Still Gallery.

“Napoleon Dynamite” is a true indie hit and will be a classic in my book.  The video and audio quality are lacking, but are the best they are going to get.  It is still better than the original DVD release.  “You know, like nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills…Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.”

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