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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Napoleon Dynamite [Blu-ray]


(Jared Hess, 2004)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Fox Searchlight & Paramount Pictures

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



Region: All

Runtime: 95 min.

Chapters: 20

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 3, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 34.5 Mbps


English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; Japanese & Italian Dub in DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 + Spanish, French & Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1.



English SDH, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean.



• Audio Commentary by Director Co-Writer Jared Hess, Producer Jeremy Coon and Actor John Heder.

• Cast Commentary with Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Jon Gries and Tina Majorino.

• Outtakes & Deleted Scenes w/ commentary by Jared Hess, Jeremy Coon and John Heder

• On Location (41:35)

• World Premiere – a Jared Hess Documentary (43:29)

• Napoleon & Rico Sightings (8:05)

• The Wedding of the Century (3:46)

• MTV On-Air Promo Spots (3:58)

• Interview with the Casting Director (13:05)

• Audition Videos (5:38)

• Still Gallery



The Film: 8
This new Blu-ray from Fox marks the third plastic video incarnation of this delightful, canny, occasionally painful and relatively plotless movie about a high school nerd named "Napoleon Dynamite." The second of these, subtitled "Like, the Best Special Edition Ever!" was a 2-disc affair that added a number of bonus features that made it an attractive double-dip in DVD. Most of these find their way onto the Blu-ray. So, why upgrade? Let's have a looksee.



Starting with a name that couldn't be further from what it portends, our antihero, in every sense, is about as clueless about entry-level social graces as is possible to be. We wonder how someone with so little going for him can afford an attitude, but it's all part of what makes him "dynamite" I suppose. Napoleon (John Heder) is not so much a klutz as he exists in an alternate reality, even more so than the typical adolescent of our time. He is helped in this by his older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) who spends most of his time surfing the Net and in chat rooms looking the ideal soulmate, and his uncle Rico (Jon Gries), a borderline personality who complains that he wasn't given the chance to make it into the big leagues and instead comes up with truly zany selling schemes to make his fortune (You'd think that a town the size of Preston, Idaho, would have caught on.)

Napoleon is a ready-made objects of sadistic bullying and extortion by those high school jocks that cruise the halls and playgrounds. In other areas, Napoleon hasn't even been called to suit up, let alone gotten to first base when it comes to girls, especially Deb (Tina Majorino), a sweet and painfully shy girl who at least makes an effort. Napoleon befriends a new kid, Pedro (Efren Ramirez), who is much more direct and na´ve in his dealings with girls and his possibilities in general.

What amazes us is that such a cast of nerds and marginal humanoids are so utterly charming and, unless you were one of the popular kids in school, identifiable as characters in our lives. What unfolds is not so much as story with a punch line, an ironic twist or moral, but a series of bizarre adventures.



Image: 6/7
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

The image is flat, thin, bright and naturally saturated by turns, sharp and grainy pretty much throughout, so I think the Blu-ray always reflects the intentions and/or limitations of the photography. There doesn't appear to be much if any artful lighting, so the whole thing has a casual, natural appeal. . . sort of like its title character.














Audio & Music: 6/8
A fairly unremarkable, though entirely competent audio track: Dialogue is always clear, which is especially good since Napoleon tends to speak as if only to himself even when he's yelling. The music by John Swihart and various indie pop artists gets quite a goose from the new DTS HD-MA mix.


Operations: 8
A totally brilliant menu design that suggests the cluttered helter skelter of a school notebook leads us from one function to the next directly once you sort out what you're looking for. The Extras pages do go on and on, and the features listed on the cover are not necessarily titled as such on the menu. And just look at all those languages and subtitling possibilities! There are even Italian subtitles for the commentary.




Extras: 8
As is usually the case when features had an earlier incarnation of DVD, the segments here are all in variable quality 480p. It appears that all of the bonus features from "Like, the Best Special Edition Ever!" (plus some additional languages and subtitling) made their way onto the Blu-ray. The filmmakers commentary is fairly dry, though informative. The commentary by cast members is more fun. One of my favorite segments is the brief "Wedding of the Century" where the cast returns to shoot a postscript to the movie. Still no trailers, though.



Bottom line: 8
Despite its grainy image, I recommend this Blu-ray to newcomers to the movie for sure and to fans who must have the best sounding version possible.

Leonard Norwitz
February 6th, 2009








About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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