DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Jared Hess
Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Diedrich Bader, Tina Majorino, Sandy Martin, Haylie Duff
Writing Credits:
Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess

He's out to prove he's got nothing to prove.

Napoleon Dynamite is a new kind of hero, complete with a tight red 'fro, sweet moon boots, and skills that canít be topped. Napoleon spends his days drawing mythical beasts, duking it out with his brother, Kip, and avoiding his scheming Uncle Rico. When two new friends enter Napoleon's life - shy Deb and mustachioed Pedro - the trio launches a campaign to elect Pedro for class president and make the student bodyís wildest dreams come true. But if Pedro is to beat stuck-up Summer, Napoleon will have to unleash his secret weapon ...

Box Office:
$400 thousand.
Opening Weekend
$116.666 thousand on 6 screens.
Domestic Gross
$42.821 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/21/2004

• Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jared Hess, Producer Jeremy Coon and Actor Jon Heder
Peluca Short Film with Optional Commentary
• ďThe Wedding of the CenturyĒ Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Still Gallery
• Previews
• MTV Promos
• Soundtrack Promo


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 24, 2004)

When is a period piece not a period piece? When itís Napoleon Dynamite, a movie that takes in modern times but keeps its attitude and style firmly back in the Seventies and early Eighties.

Set in rural Idaho, we meet dorky high school student Napoleon (Jon Heder). Apparently friendless, he pretends he has great fighting skills, and he also believes in mythical creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. He lives with his grandmother (Sandy Martin) and 32-year-old brother Kip (Aaron Ruell), another nerd who does little more than spend hours in Internet chat rooms.

When a new kid named Pedro (Efren Ramirez) comes to Preston High, Napoleon befriends him in his low-key way. Napoleon also meets classmate Deb (Tina Majorino) as she tries to sell things door-to-door to raise money for college. Kip insults her and she runs away, but eventually Napoleon tries to date her in his own logy manner.

Essentially the rest of the movie follows the various relationships but doesnít include much of a plot. Matters complicate slightly when Pedro takes Deb to a dance. We also meet Napoleonís Uncle Rico (Jon Gries); when Grandma hurts herself, he comes to take after the boys. Rico recruits Kip to engage in a marketing plan to make money. Eventually Napoleon convinces Pedro to run for class president as well against popular Summer Wheatly (Hayley Duff).

As I mentioned at the outset, the visual design of Dynamite might give you the impression that the film takes place in earlier times. Itís an odd choice, but the movieís filled with weird decisions. It wears its strangeness on its sleeve and trumpets these choices.

In truth, were it not for its oddness, thereíd be nothing to Dynamite. This is an aggressively quirky flick. Itís willfully, self-consciously weird, as it believes its unusual elements will make us think itís clever and cool.

Itís not. Instead, Dynamite comes across like a one-note flick with nothing more to it than quirkiness. Thereís no real plot, and the characters are one-dimensional as well. Theyíre generally pathetic, and not in a likable, endearing way. They simply annoy and act like morons.

It doesnít help that the performances are cartoony. Theyíre slightly fun in an odd way, but the gags get old quickly. This is possibly the most underacted movie ever made, as almost every character comes across in a slow, understated manner. All of this attempts to facilitate the humor, but instead it simply gets annoying.

Some movies tries so hard to be different and unusual that they forget to attempt anything else. Thatís the main flaw of Napoleon Dynamite. Its forced quirkiness is all it has to offer, and that makes it more like a really long and tiresome comedy sketch than a real movie.

Footnote: be sure to stick it out through the end credits for an extended epilogue.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Napoleon Dynamite appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the widescreen edition was viewed for this article. The movieís indie origins occasionally rendered it a little iffy, but it usually presented a good image.

With only a few exceptions, sharpness came across well. Some shots - mostly wider ones - displayed mild softness. Those didnít occur frequently, as the majority of the flick was accurately defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw only a smidgen of edge enhancement. As for source flaws, occasional examples of specks popped up, but the movie didnít show too many of those.

The film went with a natural but slightly subdued palette. The tones came across as adequately defined, though they tended to be a little pale. Blacks were deep and firm, and low-light shots offered good delineation. Ultimately, the movie didnít jump off the screen, but it looked fine.

Donít expect too much from the low-key Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Napoleon Dynamite. Just like the movie itself, it was a logy affair. The audio concentrated heavily on the front speakers. Music presented decent stereo imaging along with mild environmental elements. These meshed somewhat awkwardly, as they could be a little speaker-specific. In any case, they didnít offer a lot of activity. The surrounds played an extremely insubstantial role in the film. A couple of scenes like the one in the chicken coop and the dance showed minor use of the rear speakers, but for all intents and purposes, they were passive.

Audio quality was fine but unexceptional. Speech came across as fairly natural and distinctive, with no problems connected to intelligibility or edginess. Effects played a small role but sounded reasonably accurate and clean. Music was a little thin at times but usually appeared nicely defined and warm. The soundtrack didnít offer much to stand out, but it was acceptable.

When we head to the discís supplements, we find an audio commentary with director/co-writer Jared Hess, actor Jon Heder, and producer Jeremy Coon. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion. They chat about subjects like real-life inspirations for the filmís events and elements, locations, the cast and crew, and general production notes. The parts in which they talk about the movieís background and genesis are good, but the rest of it seems pretty bland. Most of the comments donít tell us much, and the guys devote too much time to praise for things. We constantly hear about how much they like this scene or that line. Itís a bland and only sporadically informative commentary.

The rest of the features can be found on one side of the disc or the other. Starting on the ďwidescreenĒ side, four Deleted Scenes appear. Viewed together, these run eight minutes and five seconds. A couple present alternate versions of existing scenes, and we also see a pair of new segments. The latter two are the more interesting of the set. We can watch the clips with or without commentary from Hess, Heder and Coon. They offer some basic production notes and also relate why the clips got cut.

In the Still Gallery, we get 43 shots. Mostly these give us production photos, but a few details like close-ups of drawings also pop up here. Under the Searchlight Features banner, we see ads for Millions and The Ringer.

Over on the fullscreen side of the disc, we get a short film called Peluca. It lasts eight minutes and 46 seconds as it presents Hessís 2002 student film precursor to Dynamite. It casts Heder as ďSethĒ, a character identical to Napoleon in every way other than name. Really, Peluca is essentially a short and primitive version of Dynamite, as it consists mainly of scenes in the final flick (or deleted scenes, in any case). Itís cool to see as a historical artifact, and since itís so much shorter, it might actually be more entertaining than Dynamite.

We can also watch Peluca with commentary from the usual trio. They toss out minor production notes but donít tell us much. Instead, they largely just make remarks related to the movieís story.

The three-minute and 46-second The Wedding of the Century! gives us a little behind the scenes look at the shoot of the movieís epilogue. We get notes from Heder and actors Efren Ramirez, Aaron Ruell, and Shondrella Avery. They chat a little about the ending scene and the movie in general. Itís promotional and not very interesting.

In addition to a soundtrack promo and a trailer for Arrested Development, the disc finishes with seven MTV Promos. Theyíre simply quirky TV ads, though some of them include some unique footage.

Based on the trailers, I thought Napoleon Dynamite had potential to be amusingly quirky. Instead, I found a movie that was nothing more than a tedious exercise in forced weirdness. The DVD presents reasonably good picture and sound. It includes a surprisingly broad roster of extras, though the bland audio commentary is a disappointment. If you enjoyed Dynamite, youíll be pleased with this DVD, but I canít recommend this wearisome clunker to others.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1441 Stars Number of Votes: 111
6 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.