Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pilot Review: Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite (Sundays at 8:30 on Fox)

You've probably been living under a rock since 2004 if you haven't seen the film Napoleon Dynamite. It was an unlikely comedic success which launched the career of Jon Heder and developed a cult following. That was seven years ago, and since no one involved could ever match the success of the film (or have any success at all, depending on who you're talking about), Fox has begun an animated series using the same characters, actors, and sometimes, jokes.

Napoleon Dynamite starts without any sort of introduction or preface whatsoever. Apparently the creators assumed that no one who hadn't seen the movie would be watching, so it's assumed that we know who everyone is and their relationships with one another. For people like me who hated the movie and only saw it once, it doesn't work particularly well. I completely forgot about the Uncle Rico character, but everyone else falls right into the same bits they made famous in the film: Kip is dating online, the deaf club is signing famous songs, and Napoleon is generally being awkward. The first episode is about Napoleon using an acne cream that hasn't been approved by the FDA and causes him to become enraged and smell really bad, so he joins an underground fight club.

Let's get this out there: nothing about this show is funny, and I do mean nothing. Whatever was supposedly funny about the film is repeated here: Napoleon insisting he has a sweet body, Kip's pedophilic voice, Pedro's nonreaction to everything, and the general white trash-ness of these characters' lives. So if you didn't find it funny the first time around, you won't find it funny now. But if you found the movie to be charming, you likely won't find the show charming. By animating these characters, what was inherently silly about the proceedings has been eliminated. Napoleon always kind of looked like a cartoon, so literally making him one takes that away. The physical comedy of the film was amusing, but without actors there is no physicality. But these things could be forgiven if the show were good in its own right; it's just not. The writing is horribly unfunny, even more so than the uncomfortable awkwardness of the film's humor. It's a study in laziness: taking the same characters, situations, jokes and what not of the film and recycling them but calling it something new. Napoleon Dynamite is ultimately a pointless series. If the film required further storytelling (which it does not), make a sequel and call it a day. But to subject audiences to something that isn't funny, original, or entertaining is just wrong.

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