World Population: 7,163,396,217
Population of Idaho, USA: 1,597,886
[approximate figures, as of this writing]
Odds that you live in Idaho: 4,483:1
Jared Hess' Napoleon Dynamite (2004) isn't for everyone. No, you don't have to actually live in rural Idaho, or even the
Midwest Pacific Northwest, to understand its humor or be entertained by its characters. Like most comedies (or films in general), you simply have to be in the right mood to enjoy it----but since Napoleon Dynamite was obviously a labor of love for Hess and company, its subtle enthusiasm and winning charm give it a slight edge over the competition. With that said, it's certainly a polarizing picture: if you're not amused after the first 15 minutes, you probably won't like the other 80. Call it whatever you want, even the backwoods cousin of films like Wes Anderson's Rushmore. But for those who appreciate its blatant quirks, Napoleon Dynamite proves to be a refreshingly dry exercise in pure awkwardness.
To overanalyze the film would kill its charm right out of the gate: in short, it's the exploits of an odd young man surrounded by equally odd friends and family. Through conflicts at school, home and elsewhere, Napoleon Dynamite paints a picture of an awkward existence: the picture is more of a caricature in this case, but that just makes it all the more accessible. Jon Heder's iconic performance as skills-obsessed Napoleon anchors the film from start to finish, though Hess' deliberately paced story holds its own as more than just a series of off-center events. It's a romantic comedy, a coming-of-age tale, or whatever else you choose to get out of it. More than anything else, it's a highly entertaining film worth watching plenty of times, especially if you know
most all of the quotes by heart. Like many others, I first saw Napoleon Dynamite within a year or so of its premiere, enjoyed it, and still find it pretty darn funny.
With that said, it's also especially nice that Napoleon Dynamite generally keeps it clean from start to finish. I'm no prude, but it's great to see a live action film that doesn't need tons of swearing and off-color jokes to stand out in a crowd. Don't get me wrong: this is still fairly low-brow humor, but it's done with enough style and charm to earn it high marks in this reviewer's book. I never owned a pair of sweet moon boots, I never ran for class president and I never bought a time machine off the Internet, but I still enjoy Napoleon Dynamite ten years later. It's not a particularly long and detailed journey, but it's certainly one that interested parties can enjoy...and fans can enjoy again and again.
To discuss how this low budget film became a huge success---or how Napoleon Dynamite gradually wedged itself into American pop culture---would be utterly pointless, as similar "Sundance to infinity" fairy tales seem to repeat themselves every few years. It's been endlessly quoted and dissected in great detail during its festival run, theatrical release and home video packages, including two separate DVDs and a 2009 Blu-ray. The film's 10th Anniversary earned it a high-def double dip that actually arrived back in February. Outside of a shiny new exterior, unfortunately, this is the exact same Blu-ray as before, although a DVD is also tucked inside for the three people that don't have one. So unless you don't own Napoleon Dynamite on Blu-ray or you're just a sucker for collectible packaging, stop reading now.
It's difficult to know whether the low-budget roots of Napoleon Dynamite
yield rock-solid results, but my gut tells me this 1.85:1, 1080p transfer is just a weak effort. Of course, it's identical to the 2009 Blu-ray
and a few notches above both DVD releases, but that's not saying much: colors favor the dull side, image detail is a little hazy and the overall picture quality is just kind of...thin. In other words, I wasn't pleasantly surprised once
. I'm sure some problems were either by design or budget constraints, but I'm confident that Napoleon Dynamite
can look better than what we get here. The fact that it's just a recycled disc from five years ago might just be rubbing me the wrong way, though.
DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent this Blu-ray's native 1080p resolution.
Likewise, the default DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track won't impress...but unlike the video, any "problems" here are most certainly by design. Dialogue and almost everything else is anchored up front, and only on rare occasions (even during music cues) does anything move to the rear channels. Optional subs and dubs are provided in over a dozen languages.
The recycled menu interface is similar to the 2006 Special Edition DVD
and, while charming in its own homemade way, is kind of a pain to navigate (especially the extras, which are stretched across five pages). The only new aspect of this release, as mentioned earlier, is the packaging: it's housed in a foldout cardboard case with two slots for the Blu-ray and flipper DVD. There's enjoyable attention to detail on display here, from the fuzzy "liger fur" slipcase to the kitchen-table collages, but the paper slots that hold both discs feels a bit cheap and might lead to damage down the road. Since this Blu-ray is identical in content to the previous disc, it's unlocked for region-free playback.
There's plenty to dig through here, though you've probably seen it all before. Recycled from the 2009 Blu-ray
are two cast and producer Audio Commentaries
, a pair of Behind-the-Scenes Documentaries
("World Premiere: Jared Hess" and "On Location"), the original 2002 short Peluca
(with or without commentary), a collection of Deleted Scenes
, several era-specific Napoleon Sightings
and Miscellaneous Promos
, three Audition Videos
, a nice Photo Gallery
, "Wedding of the Century" and "Casting" Featurettes
and more. Optional subtitles are included...but not in English, for whatever reason.
Ten years later, almost all 95 minutes' worth of Napoleon Dynamite have aged pretty flippin' well. But rock-dwellers aside, the odds are good that you've already seen it (probably at least half a dozen times) and own the DVD or Blu-ray, so you knew that already. Unfortunately, this 10th Anniversary absolutely reeks of a pointless cash grab and offers nothing more than a new packaging job. The recycled extras are still enjoyable but the A/V presentation is lacking, although this low-budget comedy will likely never have a high-gloss shine. Bottom line: Napoleon Dynamite remains an enjoyable movie with plenty of replay value left in the tank, but only the most die-hard packaging junkies should bother with this fuzzy, cardboard curiosity. Newcomers should just try out the DVD or Blu-ray first. Everyone else? Skip It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two.
In his free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing whatever he wants in third person. GOSH!