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Hilarious comedy lands on DVD as an instant classic

Chris Kepner | Monday, February 14, 2005

“Napoleon Dynamite” is pretty much the best movie ever made. How can anyone even know that? It just is! Gosh! It’s incredible!And now that it’s out on DVD one would have to be an idiot not to buy it.If anyone uses these euphemisms around campus lately, don’t be surprised. They are a staple for the title character in “Napoleon Dynamite” and add a certain charm to this hilarious film. It all started as a student film called “Peluca,” written and directed by Jared Hess in 2002. Recognizing the potential of this hilarious character, who was originally named Seth, Jared and his brother, Jerusha Hess, wrote a script expanding the concept into a feature-length film. Supposedly by coincidence, Napoleon Dynamite was the pseudonym that Elvis Costello used on his 1986 album “Blood and Chocolate.”Seriously though, anyone who hasn’t seen this film really needs to. It will at least explain the one-liners that have been shooting incessantly around campus.What can be said about “Napoleon Dynamite?” The title character, played by Jon Heder, is classic. He’s a high school kid going through awkwardness’s awkward stage. He draws unicorns and ligers, which are probably his favorite animal. It’s a lion and a tiger mixed, bred for its skills in magic. Napoleon wishes he had some skills other than drawing, though, because girls only want boyfriends who have great skills – numchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills. You get the idea. Napoleon’s older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) chats online with babes all day. He considers joining a dojo called Rex-Kwon-Do, where he’ll learn to fight with the strength of a grizzly, the reflexes of a puma and the wisdom of a man. Eventually he helps their Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) sell Tupperware knock-offs door-to-door instead.Napoleon and Kip (who, by the way, is 30 years old) live in rural Idaho with their grandma, who keeps a ham-loving pet llama named Tina. See where this film is going yet? It’s completely absurd but undeniably funny. The Hess brothers fashion a nice little plot that moves at a very relaxed pace, allowing subtle humor to thrive along the path to a very uplifting ending.One caution is the added wedding scene after the credits. The Hess brothers made this film independently, and Fox Searchlight bought it at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, later partnering with Paramount Pictures and MTV Films to distribute it. Now, what usually happens time and time again when independent films go corporate? They’re changed and often ruined! Granted, it could have been a great deal worse for “Napoleon Dynamite.” The corporate meddling has been confined mostly to the promotional spots and the wedding scene, which ended up costing about half of what the entire film cost. And it’s terrible! Its grotesquely bromidic Hollywoodification should infuriate fans of the actual film. Luckily, all you have to do is stop the DVD before this scene starts and you’ll have a brilliant, original and hilarious film. The DVD includes a very entertaining commentary track as well as the original short film, “Peluca.”As Napoleon himself would say, heck yes, you should buy this!