Napoleon Dynamite appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the movie’s low-budget roots, the image usually looked pretty good.
With only a few exceptions, sharpness came across well. Some shots - mostly wider ones - displayed mild softness. Those didn’t occur frequently, as the majority of the flick was accurately defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes failed to appear. As for source flaws, occasional examples of specks popped up, but the movie didn’t show too many of those.
The film went with a natural but slightly subdued palette. The tones came across as adequately defined, with reasonable vivacity. Blacks were deep and firm, and low-light shots offered good delineation. Ultimately, the movie didn’t jump off the screen, but it looked fine.
Don’t expect too much from the low-key DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Napoleon Dynamite. Just like the movie itself, it was a logy affair. The audio concentrated 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 didn’t offer a lot of activity.
The surrounds played an 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, and music came from the back channels as well. Nonetheless, 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 didn’t offer much to stand out, but it was acceptable.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2006 Special Edition DVD? Audio was a little warmer and fuller, while the visuals showed increased definition and clarity. I thought the Blu-ray demonstrated a nice improvement over the DVD.
The 2006 DVD’s extras repeat here, and find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from 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 film’s events and elements, locations, the cast and crew, and general production notes.
The parts in which they talk about the movie’s background and genesis are good, but the rest of it seems pretty bland. Most of the comments don’t 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. It’s a flat and only sporadically informative commentary.
For the second track, we discover notes from actors Aaron Ruell, Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez and Tina Majorino. All four sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion. They discuss the movie’s credits, the inspirations for various aspects of the movie, characters and their depiction, locations and set design, and various anecdotes from the shoot.
Occasionally we get some decent insights into the production. The actors toss out a fair number of nice stories that illuminate the movie’s creation. However, much of the time the actors do little more than giggle at the film and praise it. They tell us how they love this bit or another and call things “classic”. Boy, do they adore this flick!
Combined with some dead spots, the plaudits make this commentary less useful than I’d like. When the participants focus on the creation of the movie, it works well, but when it devolves into happy talk, it gets tedious. There’s enough solid information to make the commentary positive, though; it’s definitely superior to the first track.
Next we go to two separate documentaries. On Location: Napoleon Dynamite lasts 41 minutes, 36 seconds and consists almost entirely of footage from the set. We watch a variety of scenes as they’re shot, with an emphasis on how Hess worked with the actors. Occasionally we get a split-screen presentation that allows us to compare the raw production clips with the final movie scenes. I enjoy this kind of program and like the fact we get a lively behind the scenes glimpse of Dynamite.
Another documentary called World Premiere: Jared Hess goes for 43 minutes, 29 seconds. It looks at Hess’s experiences related to the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. In this non-linear piece, we watch the lead-up to the premiere as well as the aftermath and what Hess went through along the way. We also see events like the Preston, Idaho “Napoleon Dynamite Festival” and meet others like Hess’s wife and family.
I thought this sort of behind the scenes program would be great, but it’s too inconsistent to be valuable. It’s interesting to have a look at how Hess reacted to the various pressures, and he also tosses out some good reflections on various aspects of the movie. Heck, he even chats about his childhood bedwetting and other real-life influences.
However, “Premiere” includes too much self-indulgent material to work as well as I’d like. It’s a good piece, but it drags at times. I must admit it’s oddly fascinating to watch the stages of Hess’s eyebrows; the “20 Months After” shots show them at their most intense, but their furriness varies a ton over the months.
Next we get four Deleted Scenes. Viewed together, these run eight minutes and four seconds. “2nd Locker Room” and “Kickball and Outtakes Montage #1” present a pair of new segments, while “Extended Thrift Store/Lotto Ticket” and “Holy Chip” are alternate versions of existing scenes. The first two are the more interesting of the set.
We can watch these clips with or without commentary from Hess, Heder and Coon. They offer some basic production notes and also relate why the clips got cut.
After this we find an additional four Extended/Alternate Scenes. These run a total of five minutes, five seconds. We get “Current Event (Extended)”, “Chapstick (Extended)”, “Nupont Fiber-Woven Bowls (Alternate)” and “Extended Time Machine Scene”.
These lack any form of commentary. They also fail to present much new material. Most of the footage shows bits that already appear in the final film; the additions are extremely brief. Die-hard fans might dig them, but no one should expect much from these very minor extensions.
Three Outtakes also show up here. These fill a total of six minutes, 35 seconds. One shows “Kip’s Sweet Love Poem”, a longer take on the inane message Kip sends to his girlfriend. Another offers “Lord of the Dance”, a short clip from an earlier production that influenced Dynamite. “Outtakes Montage #2” includes a few goofs, but it also lets us see scenes from unusual points of view. For instance, we get a take in which we only watch the other students as Napoleon talks in front of the class. We also get a couple of small trims that offer unique information. Though there’s nothing terrific here, at least these bits are more interesting than the new “Extended/Alternate Scenes”.
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.
A short film called Peluca lasts eight minutes and 46 seconds as it presents Hess’s 2002 student film precursor to Dynamite. It casts Heder as “Seth”, 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). It’s cool to see as a historical artifact, and since it’s 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 don’t tell us much. Instead, they largely just make remarks related to the movie’s 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 movie’s epilogue. We get notes from Heder, Ramirez, Ruell, and actor Shondrella Avery. They chat a little about the ending scene and the movie in general. It’s promotional and not very interesting.
A featurette entitled Casting Napoleon Dynamite - An Interview with Jory Weitz runs for 13 minutes, five seconds. Weitz talks about how he got involved with the production as well as his work casting the movie. Weitz specifically discusses recruiting Jon Gries, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino, and Sandy Martin. He lets us know why he chose these actors, character issues and working with Hess and company. The program ends up as informative and useful.
This area also includes three Audition Videos that fill a total of five minutes, 38 seconds. These feature Majorino (2:29), Ramirez (2:23) and Haylie Duff (0:46). We saw glimpses of the first two in the Weitz interview, but it’s good to get them on their own along with the Duff snippet.
It seems odd we don’t see Ramirez’s initial take on the character, though. As shown in the “Casting” program, Ramirez first made Pedro more animated but he changed this after notes from the director.
Under the banner of Napoleon Sightings we locate many Dynamite-related TV appearances. These include “Clips from TRL” (five minutes), “Tankman Begins” from the 2005 MTV Movie Awards (5:56), Jon Heder in the opening of SNL (3:57), 2004 Teen Choice Awards (1:26), 2005 Teen Choice Awards (1:04), “Spelling Bee” (0:59), and three Utah State Fair ads (0:34, 0:35 and 0:34).
The marginally entertaining “TRL” stuff places Napoleon in Manhattan and features him as a “random VJ”, while “Tankman” – which also appears on the Batman Begins disc - focuses on Jimmy Fallon but also features an appearance by Andy Dick and a brief spot from Napoleon at its end. It’s not funny at all. Note that this version comes uncensored, so we hear some profanity that clearly didn’t make it on MTV.
Heder’s SNL appearance shows his monologue mixed with movie-influenced characters and is awfully lame. For the first “Teen Choice” clip, we watch Napoleon and Nicole Richie play tetherball, while the 2005 segment shows Heder’s acceptance of the “Choice Movie Hissy Fit” award. Both are just as lame as they sound. “Spelling Bee” shows a contestant who quoted the film during his response. It’s random and odd though vaguely entertaining since it clearly confuses the bee’s hosts.
Finally, the three State Fair ads feature Napoleon and Pedro. As expected, they advertise the Fair in their odd little way. These are actually moderately amusing; they’re better than much of the material in the movie. While I can’t claim that the “Sightings” prove terribly interesting to me, I must admit I like the fact they’re here. Fans will clearly love being able to see this stuff.
In addition to the “Sightings”, we discover 13 MTV On-Air Promos that fill a total of seven minutes, seven seconds. They’re simply quirky TV ads for the movie, though some of them include some unique footage.
A second disc presents a DVD copy of Dynamite. It replicates the original double-sided DVD from 2004. Why? I don’t know, but if you’re dying to watch the 1.33:1 cropped version of the film, you’re all set!
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 Blu-ray offers mostly good picture and audio along with a long roster of bonus materials. This becomes a quality reproduction of an annoying movie.
To rate this film visit the original review of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE