IF YOU'VE ALREADY bought into Napoleon's surrealist Idaho freak show, there's surely one big question you want this DVD (released Dec. 21) to answer: Is gangly lead Jon Heder a master dork caricaturist, or does he really frickin' talk that way? If the extras here are any indication, to answer the latter, heck yes he does! GOSH!
This is a good thing. The main beef plaguing Napoleon's surprisingly extensive theatrical run was that director/co-writer Jared Hess was merely lampooning rural archetypes. To an extent he was, sure, but Hess' commentary track confesses personal responsibility for many of his characters' eccentricities. Yes, he and his goofy friends attached action figures to fishing line and dragged them behind the school bus. Yes, they purchased mail-order time machines. Yes, they spent many hours perfecting their solo tetherball skills. Most people aren't laughing at Napoleon and Co.'s expense so much as chuckling out of empathy.
The disc is regrettably light on useful extras. In "Napoleon Goes to Hollywood," the lone decent MTV promotional spot, an exasperated Heder explains the difference between his favorite animal, the liger (a male lion bred with a female tiger), and a tion (they "smell like poo"). Among the archival treats are Peluca, the short film that introduced the fully developed Napoleon character, and a wedding epilogue (tacked on only after the original version became a surprise hit, with a stunning $43 million to date), in which Napoleon's brother sings a lisping karaoke dedication to his Nubian goddess wife. Ever the sympathetic bro, Napoleon spits, "Lucky!" C'mon. If he doesn't know better, his creator does—there are skills involved there.
DEC. 21 BRINGS a raft of titles to disc. Kevin Kline is earning award nominations for the lame Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely; Clive Owen won't be so lucky for King Arthur. The Seattle grunge documentary Hype! is new to DVD, as is the comic Brit zombie pic Shaun of the Dead. Jonathan Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate deserves a second look, as does the little-seen South African crime flick Stander. Stinkers like Thunderbirds and Surviving Christmas are the next best thing to coal and eggs in the holiday stocking. And if someone has been really naughty, there's always Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.