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TV Series Review

In 2004, a cheaply made, quirky little movie filmed in southern Idaho trundled out to a few theaters. And then it trundled out to a few more. Before the entertainment industry could say "sweet," the silly little flick had earned $46 million, spawned a cult following and generated an untold number of "Vote for Pedro" T-shirts.

The film had skills, it turned out. And it called itself Napoleon Dynamite.

Seven years later, Napoleon's back for an animated encore on Fox. Hoping to catch llama spit in a bottle twice (and, for anyone familiar with llama saliva, that's a tricky thing to do), its creators have tried to duplicate—or at least create passable forgeries of—all the elements that made Napoleon such a surprise success in the first place.

Most of the characters—Napoleon, Kip, Pedro, Grandma—are the same. And they're voiced by the same actors who starred in the movie. The film's creators are onboard for the project, as are the writers (Jared and Jerusha Hess).

But something got lost in translation, as we kinda knew it would. Napoleon Dynamite the movie, after all, had the luxury of time. It could ease its way into punchlines and quietly milk its clever sense of incredulity. In a half-hour comedy—an animated comedy, at that—there's no time to let audiences ease into anything, much less the strange, off-kilter vibe of Prescott Senior High School. Everything is go, go, go—a big-city mentality trying to somehow replicate small-town Idaho.

How could you protect a dollop or two of quirky humor in the context of an ongoing TV series anyway? If you see it too often, it ceases to be quirky, and thus it ceases to be funny. If you visit a woman who puts cats on her head, you might leave thinking, "My, that was strange," and gleefully recount the story for days. If the lady in question happens to be an in-town aunt of yours, though, those cats become just a tiresome part of the Sunday dinner landscape.

The final failure in the replication department are the film's PG sensibilities. Oh, the cartoon's not terrible, mind you—not compared to the content found in wildly popular and extraordinarily problematic animated shows like  Family Guy or Beavis and Butt-head. The Simpsons would be a fairer comparison in terms of content. But considering the fact that part of the film's original charm was its un-ironic sense of innocence, the TV-14-level of crass here is both disappointing and destructive. There's a little calm-Idaho left in this remake … but not enough.


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Episode Reviews

NapoleonDynamite: 1152012
NapoleonDynamite: 1152012
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