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Popdose Winter 2012 TV Preview: “Napoleon Dynamite”

Napoleon Dynamite is back, but this time he’s got his own TV Series. How does it hold up against the beloved cult film? Brian Boone is here tell you, my friends. Read on!

Napoleon Dynamite- Sundays, 8:30 PM, FOX

The 2004 Napoleon Dynamite was a refreshingly original movie, a confident mix of bizarre even otherworldly characters in a dreary small town running around for an hour and a half doing nothing in particular. It was a series of deliberately chosen, almost arbitrary quirks, catchphrases, and episodic moments, but in the end, so warm and warmly hilarious. It would have and should have made a great TV series.

It didn’t. The whole thing is wildly wrong in its tone, approach, and faithfulness to the mild but beloved cultural phenomenon of eight years ago.

The original, live-action movie already was a cartoon, as it was both familiar and surreal (and infinitely quotable). The cartoon completely abandons the movie’s quiet, random tone for crass and formulaic plots, sitcomy jokes, and insult humor. Oh, and none of the characters make any sense vs. their movie counterparts. All of the main characters (the actors of which reprise their roles here) suddenly are sharp, smart, and aware of their surroundings, not deluded, barely awake, or vaguely depressed. In what universe of Napoleon Dynamite does Napoleon actually have kung fu moves, instead of being great in his own head, before fighting his brother in an underground cage fight? And Napoleon corrects somebody’s grammar, which seems impossible for someone who seemed mildly mentally ill in the movie.

It’s also impossible to tell when in the Nappy D timeline this takes place. For example, Kip isn’t yet married to LaFawnduh, which happens in the movie, and yet Napoleon is friends with Pedro, who he meets in the movie. The series, then, takes place sometime after the beginning of the movie, but before the early-middle of the movie.

The influence of primetime cartoons is felt far stronger than that of the movie’s creative force and co-producers Jared and Jarusha Hess. With all the funny background gags, insult humor, rapid-fire actions, and lack of sympathy for its characters, the show is less similar to the Napoleon Dynamite movie than it is to The Critic. That’s not a good thing.

Maybe I’m just bummed out that the creative team – the Hess duo in particular—had to go back to the well because their post Napoleon ventures, the equally bizarro and inventive comedies Nacho Libre and Gentlemen Broncos—were not well-received. Don’t watch the Napoleon series—go rent Gentleman Broncos instead.