Monday, January 16, 2012

REVIEW: Napoleon Dynamite

Fox - Sundays 9:30/8:30 Central

Based on the popular 2004 movie of the same name, Napoleon Dynamite is an animated venture with the same actors and same characters.  It attempts to recapture what worked so well with the original, the offbeat protagonists, boring Idaho, and their attempts to survive high school.

The problem is that the animated outing does not fare as well as the original movie, making this a pointless effort to recapture the magic, and its attempts at nostalgia come up short.

1.  Does it entertain me?
No, not especially.  This is due to a couple of reasons, and a couple of the misguided attempts with this cartoon.

First, Napoleon Dynamite (similar to Seinfeld) is much more fun to talk about than to actually watch.  People doing impressions of Napoleon and Pedro and Uncle Rico is funny.  Watching them in action was always just awkward.

Second, the show does not have the same charm that made the original popular.  Watching Jon Heder awkwardly talk to people, or run like some sort of weird art, was amusing when it's a real person.  Watching the animated version try to do the same things is not.  Cartoons are cartoons are wacky and weird, and we're used to seeing them do things that are out of the ordinary.  Real life counterparts, however, is a much more satisfying affair.

Third, the charm of the movie is just not there.  Mannerisms are not captured, voice inflection and facial movement are different, and there just aren't any awkward pauses.  All of that combines to make this not only not funny, but also a strange choice to turn into an animated romp.

This would all be well and good if the show were funny or entertaining, but it's not.  It's hard to watch at times, and the other times you want to flip through the channel guide to see what else is on.

2.  Is it realistic?
Not as realistic as the movie, since that captured teenage awkwardness wonderfully.  When Napoleon wanted to be a ninja warrior, it was funny in the movie.  When he tries to do the same thing in a cartoon, it just seems sad and tired.

Teenage angst is a wonderful thing to capture on screen, and other shows try to do it, but end up infusing it with too much maturity and adult problems.  Napoleon Dynamite, the cartoon version, still has strange high school problems, but they have now graduated into the absurd.  The pilot featured a love machine that matches up people in the class based on personalities.  Hilarity is supposed to ensue when Napoleon is placed with the new foreign exchange student, Deb is with the popular jock, and Pedro is with the head cheerleader.

The problem is that none of these storylines are innovative or intelligent, and instead of wanting more of the same characters, you want to return to the musical stylings from the casio keyboard of the movie.

3.  Are immoral actions defended?
Unlike most of the rest of Fox's Sunday night animation block, there really are no immoral actions in this show.  The movie was one of the most family friendly movies that came out in a long time, and it still stands up that way.  The cartoon version is made from the same stuff, at least the pilot, which is the only episode I have seen.

4.  Are traditional family values upheld?
Yes, they are.  Napoleon and Kip are raised by their grandma, and she is a little out there, but most grandmas are.  There is no sex, no adultery, nothing offensive, which is refreshing in this day and age.  Too bad the show really isn't worth watching.
Never quite living up to the awkward greatness of the original movie, "Napoleon Dynamite" is not funny and is generally a waste of time.  The characters have no purpose and the writing seems lazy.  In reality, this animated version almost taints the original, and that is unfortunate.

Grade: D

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