August 04, 2005

Napolean Dynamite DVD (UMD for PSP) review

From Twentieth Century Fox Home Video, comes the release of one of the most popular movies in decades, Napolean Dynamite. This is the new UMD Mini (Universal Media Disc) format for the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP).

  • Napolean Dynamite stars: Jon Heder, Jon Gries, & more
  • Director: Jared Hess
  • Encoding: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video

As deadpan comedies go, Napoleon Dynamite stands in a class all its own. Played by John Heder, the title character is (in the words of critic Roger Ebert) "the kind of nerd other nerds avoid," a mouth-breathing dweeb with a mangy nest of orange hair, and ungainly features that suggest a perpetual state of half-conscious depression. He lives in Preston, Idaho (former home of 24-year-old director Jared Hess) with his thrill-seeking grandma and 32-year-old brother, and his days at high school consist mostly of being abused or ignored by indifferent classmates. Napoleon's sad-sack story doesn't offer the scathing, impassioned humor of Welcome to the Dollhouse because Hess (who cowrote the nearly plotless screenplay with his wife, Jerusha) doesn't have an angst-ridden axe to grind. Instead, the comedy (which exists in a tacky universe of worn-out rural suburbia) is so low-key that some will find it difficult to laugh, while others (i.e., those who feel superior to Napoleon) will have plenty of fun at Napoleon's expense. The result is a curiously uneven film, hilarious at times, but hampered by its own sense of affectionate mockery. An audience favorite at the Sundance film festival, Napoleon Dynamite may not be entirely lovable, but it's definitely unique. - Jeff Shannon

Order the Napolean Dynamite UMD/DVD for your Sony PSP

Personally, Napolean Dynamite is one of those movies where you either get it, or you don't. To a lot of people, mostly in the MTV crowd, this is one of best movies in a long time. To others, it's not worth their $5. If you grew up in a small town or outside the city, you should enjoy Napolean Dynamite - it pokes fun at a lot of things we thought were "cool" back in the day.

About Sony PSP UMD discs: Universal Media Discs (UMDs) are playable only in the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) and are not compatible with contemporary DVD players. The UMD is a newly developed compact, high capacity optical format that can store up to 1.8 GB of digital data on a 60mm disc or an entire feature film on a single UMD video. Movies on UMD will be produced in 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio and encoded using advanced AVC compression, which provides a high level of picture quality.

Other UMD Movies for the Sony PSP you might like...
Pirates of the Caribbean
Hellboy, The Director's Cut
Are We There Yet? w/ Ice Cube
Terminator 2
More UMD Mini for PSP movies...

Napolean Dynamite UMD Movie for Playstation Portable review
Reviewer: Robert W. Moore (Chicago, IL USA) - I love independent films, but the truth is that some of them you have to cut a tiny bit of slack due to their lack of resources. But not NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. Seeing this was one of the most delightful, unexpected pleasures that I have had in a movie in a long, long time. Most high school comedies dealing with school nerds are a bit of a cheat, because the nerds are never really as nerdy as the ones we all knew or (or perhaps were) in high school. My favorite TV show is BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, but I could never really buy the ultra-cute Alyson Hannigan as a school nerd. But not so Napoleon Dynamite, his friend Pedro, or Deb, the reserved and shy girl he has a crush on.

No explanation is made of Napoleon's name, but any Elvis Costello fan knows that in the 1980s he declared that he would no longer be known as Elvis Costello, but instead as Napoleon Dynamite, under which name he released what may have been his last great album, BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE. The producers have independently declared that they were unaware of that and chose the name without reference to Elvis Costello. This is, of course, utterly absurd, about as believable as someone making a movie with the lead character named Anna Karenina but claiming to be ignorant that Tolstoy had a character by that name.

The movie depicts the private hell that is the life of Napoleon Dynamite, a hopelessly inept misfit at Preston High School in Idaho, apparently without any friends at all until he stumbles upon a new Hispanic student Pedro, who apparently is incapable of speaking any word with more than one syllable or of smiling (until the very end of the film). Napoleon makes nerds look cool. School is such hell for Napoleon that it seems perfectly normal for one kid as he is walking down the hall to body slam him up against his locker. It isn't just that he is clueless, he is cursed; he not only thinks it is OK to stuff tater tots into his pocket, unwrapped, for snacking on later, it is inevitable that another kid will crush them in his pocket when he refuses to share.

If Napoleon's life is awful at school, it is as bad at home. We are clueless as to the whereabouts or fate of his parents, but his slacker and equally nerdy brother provides neither companionships nor solace, and when his grandmother injures herself in a ATV sand dune accident, his Uncle Rico, a fortyish Peter Pan so desperately yearning for 1982 that he orders a home made time travel machine over the Internet, who is as pathetic in his own way as either Napoleon or his brother Kip.

Plot is not really important in the film; the process of Napoleon's life is. This could easily have been a terrible film, but director Jered Hess (born, by the way, in Preston, Idaho), who co-wrote the screenplay with his wife Jerusha, displays throughout a deft touch at keeping things interesting and funny instead of merely silly. The actors are all excellent, though for the most part near unknowns. I recognized only two performers, one being Diedrich Bader, who has been in a number of roles over the years, perhaps more memorably in OFFICE SPACE as the protagonist's next door neighbor, with whom he would have conversations through the wall. Here he has a hysterical stint as an absurd martial arts instructor. I also knew Tina Majorino, who has been in a number of films over the years, primarily as a child. She does a great job as Deb, though her role (as is Napoleon's) is a bit of a cheat on the audience. They make her up to be as unattractive as possible, when she is, in fact, quite a cutie, as the improved hair-do at the end of the film proves. The cheat with Napoleon is the fact that he . . . well, I won't spoil things. Let's just say that by the end of the film he isn't the helpless nerd we imagine. I especially enjoyed Efren Ramirez as the monosyllabic Pedro. He underplays his role to the point of parody.

I do highly recommend this movie. NAPOLEON DYNAMITE is a thoroughly unique, fun, and funny film, that isn't quite like anything else I've seen. One might say that it is not unlike a male-oriented version of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE set in rural Idaho.

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