Napoleon Dynamite

There was a time when the name Napoleon Dynamite didn’t mean anything more than a half-obscure Elvis Costello reference, to the singer’s alter ego on his album Blood & Chocolate.

But things changed sharply in 2004, when a boy on a school bus asked a moon-booted mouth-breather, played by Jon Heder, “What are you gonna do today, Napoleon?” and got the testy reply, “Whatever I feel like I wanna do. Gosh!”

That opening volley, along with plenty of other memorable and well-played dialogue in director Jared Hess’ feature-film debut (co-written with his wife, Jerusha), made the point right away that Napoleon Dynamite should be a name for the ages.

By now, it’s enough for Fox Home Entertainment to figure, correctly, that even the promotional obscurities and very short TV commercials for Hess’ movie have become collectibles. Hence, the feature-laden Napoleon Dynamite: Like, the Best Special Edition Ever!

Aficionados of an earlier DVD release will not be disappointed by the abundance of new extras here. (Look for the promo spot with Totzilla). But the core of the Napoleon Dynamite experience is still the movie itself, which holds up well as a deadpan act of noble generosity.

With his special version of aplomb, Napoleon negotiates such trials as a potential new romance, a churlish llama, some family tension with his chat-room-Casanova brother Kip and his domineering ex-quarterback uncle Rico, and, of course, the class-presidential-election campaign of his new friend Pedro. 

Heder’s spazzy, surly, craven teenager is among the most endearingly awkward souls in recent movies. The performance is great but can’t fairly be called inimitable; by now, come to think of it, detractors must surely despair of how truly imitable it is. Of course, they are all flippin’ idiots.