Some movies are constructed to be a mega hit. The film makers have at their disposal a budget that could fund a small country and an army of technical support staff that would fill a stadium. The studios naturally enough have a great deal invested in a film like this and careers are usually on the line. Then there are those films that seem to come out of nowhere and make a splash that overwhelms the blockbusters in both critical acclaim and popularity with the audience. There has been a great trend in recent years for such movies to come out of the independent world. The cost next to nothing and are frequently shot in a matter of a few weeks. The people making these movies like getting paid, as we all do, but for them it is about the art of cinema and expressing themselves. A movie like this would never be considered seriously in a studio executive pitch meeting; too little chance at a big return on the investment. In 2004 a little Indy flick ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ hit the scene and put the Hollywood studios on notice. This movie cost a meager $400,000 to make, was shot in three weeks and the final edit was done on a computer in the living room of one of the producers. It would wind bringing in a domestic theatrical box office of about $45 million and heaped a lot more money on top of that with foreign and DVD sales. I can only imagine the talk around the water coolers at the major studios when this fact was made public. This movie is the definition of quirky. It is strange and off beat like few films could ever manage to pull off. This is the reason why people love Indy movies; they are films that you normally would never be able to see. Since there are not a lot of art houses located new a lot of film buffs a flick like this achieves much of its fame through DVD sales. In this case it was helped with a second wave of theatrical releases that pushed it into the neighborhood Cineplex. Now there is a chance to revisit this film in a format that is better than ever; Blu-ray. 20th Century Fox has been going through their vaults and re-releasing some of their more significant movies in high definition and now its time for ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ to take its place there. This is a film that speaks to the inner geek within us all. Even if you were one of the cool kids in high school chances are you still had your share of insecurities and this movie will give you a chance to relive them all.
The film came from the imaginative minds of the husband and wife team of Jerusha and Jared Hess. They are both Mormons and attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. They have a warped view of the world and society as a whole that comes across in this simple yet highly effective story. Prior to this the pair had only one comic short film to their names. As a freshman opus this movie is incredibly well crafted. It is put together with a love of movies and yet looks haphazard at times. This would normally be a negative but in this case the lack of a solid structure is vital to the story that they want to tell. Life is not nicely packaged; it is usually a series of vignettes and scenes that we play out each day. This is the feel that comes across in the screenplay. The main character of Napoleon, brilliantly underplayed by newcomer Jon Heder, is a slacker and a looser. He is not popular and stumbles through each day just trying his best to make it though life. Napoleon is not just the epitome of the high school geek he is the punch line for every nerd joke ever made. He is tall and gangly with a messy mop of red hair that shoots out in all conceivable directions at once. His skin is about half a shade away from being an albino. Napoleon is not just lacking in any athletic abilities he is one of the most spastic human beings ever. For him tying an action figure to a string and dragging it behind the school bus is a great way to start his day. In some ways the Hess uses this as a metaphor for how Napoleon sees himself; aimlessly bouncing around.
It takes a very talented director to make a film look easy. Hess achieves this in a way that I have rarely seen before. It looks like the film was thrown together but when you step back and stop laughing you will see that this is a movie that was carefully planed to come across the way it does. The film has a feel of something that has been discussed in the small hours of the morning and finally this group of friends and family got around to pulling it off. It is funny because it is so honest. The audience is able to understand the character on a personal level. Usually a film can be judged by how well it maintains the narrative of the story. In this case such a direction would be wrong. This is a story about a high school looser. It is meant to be shown in a stream of consciousness format; things just happen and the characters have to react.
Napoleon lives with in a small town in Idaho with his grandmother (Sandy Martin) and his unemployed older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell). Napoleon never really had a chance to fit in not only because of his strange physical appearance and loner attitude; his family has a pet llama named Tina. Kip trolls the internet chat rooms in hope of hooking up, which never happens of course. He also wants to train to be a cage fighter. When Grandma is injured she talks the boy’s Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) to leave his orange mobile home to look after them. This doesn’t say a lot for the 32 year old Kip’s level of responsibility. Napoleon makes a couple of equally misfit friends in Deb (Tina Majorino) and Pedro (Efren Ramirez). Deb is insulted when Rico tries to sell her some phony breast enhancement herbs and tells her that Napoleon suggested it. In time a plan emerges to help Pedro, an exchange student to fit in by running him for class president against the most popular girl in the school, Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff).
This is the proverbial little film that could and it is a must have for anyone who wants to have a few laughs on family movie night. I have seen it on regular DVD and thought at the time that that was great but this new high definition release blows that one out of the water. The 1080p video is perfect for a film that has so many little details set in place for the viewer to notice. There is a level of clarity present that makes the best use of your high def television. The lossless DTS HD audio provides a rich, full sound stage that will make you feel that you are right their in the movie. There are also a nice slection of very entertaining extras to round things out.