Napoleon Dynamite: Welcome Return or Unnecessary Retread?

Nobody knows what happened eight years ago. That is a span of time so long it can only be measured in theories and equations by scientists pulling all-nighters scribbling on chalkboards. And even then a secretly genius janitor would have to walk in, solve the equation, and confirm, "Yes, 2004 happened." Eight years was a long time ago, basically.

So it's understandable if you've forgotten that 2004 was a year in which an unassuming indie movie named Napoleon Dynamite made the transition from BYU student film to mainstream pop culture juggernaut. Jared and Jerusha Hess's low-key comedy told the story of a mouth-breathing teenage misfit with an unlikely blaxploitation name and the gaggle of kitschy characters who surrounded him. What began as a highly amusing cult hit ended up an MTV-endorsed, overexposed pop culture annoyance that resulted in frat guys quoting dialogue, Jon Heder receiving additional starring roles, and those ubiquitous "Vote For Pedro" t-shirts. In retrospect this over-saturation certainly tarnished the original film's charms, which is a shame because it was really something special: proudly weird and unpredictable, with a unique sense of humor that worked mostly due to the movie's low-energy, low-budget aesthetic.

But now, just after we'd finally put this tired pop culture artifact out of our collective consciousness, the cast and creators have reunited to bring Napoleon Dynamite the animated series to Fox's Sunday-night Animation Domination lineup. Yay? Quick question: Who asked for this? No matter, the series now joins that special category of movie-to-cartoon adaptations that includes Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, and Clerks. There's a precedent for this sort of thing, so the real question now is, "Is it any good?"

Napoleon Dynamite (2012) isn't terrible, let's put it that way. The animated comedy bar has been significantly lowered by Seth MacFarlane's franchise of Family Guy carbon copies, and it was recently planted deep beneath the earth's crust by Allen Gregory, a truly awful show that really worked hard for its cancellation. So by comparison, Napoleon Dynamite is okay, but it's definitely no Bob's Burgers or even latter-day The Simpsons. Despite the return of the movie's entire original cast, the show actually bears less stylistic similarity to the movie than it does to Family Guy. Where the movie had drawn-out scenes of unexplained awkwardness and musical interludes, the animated series has cut-away jokes and rapid-fire dialogue. In fact, I had to double check that Seth MacFarlane wasn't actually involved. He's not: In addition to the Hesses, the credited producer is Mike Scully, a Simpsons veteran. At the very least they all seem to be fans of MacFarlane's.

Anyway, Fox aired two new episodes on Sunday, "Thundercone" and "Scantronica." The first involved Napoleon using an acne medication that caused him to become aggressive and get involved in a secret fight club, while the second featured a computer which paired off the teenagers into romantic couplings against their wishes. All our favorite characters appeared, including lispy brother Kip (who's no longer married to LaFawnduh), Uncle Rico, Grandma, Tina the llama, Pedro, karate expert Rex, and Rex's bodybuilder wife. Guest-star Amy Poehler appeared as Kip's crazed love interest in the first episode, while the second episode featured voice work from Jennifer Coolidge and Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement (both of whom appeared in the Hesses' film Gentlemen Broncos).

On paper the premises and cast are terrifi,c and a number of jokes made me laugh—including a recurring bit about a Showbiz Pizza-esque animatronic band and Kip's skills with a Fushigi ball. But generally speaking, something about the whole enterprise just didn't click for me. It's hard to say whether it's because the execution was off, or if I was just too haunted by the tired spectre of the movie to truly enjoy the animated versions of its characters. But I'll allow that it's completely possible for this thing to become something more watchable in the future, if it ever leaves behind its own mythology and delves into more surprising territory. Unlike with Allen Gregory, Napoleon Dynamite's characters are rooted in an essential sweetness, plus the show's world is an open and appealing place where observational humor can safely live alongside absurdity.

So while I'm mixed about whether Napoleon Dynamite works as an animated series, I remain baffled about why it exists in the first place, particularly if its tone and energy are so different from the movie. I'm not saying that an animated TV series adaptation is a failure if it departs from its source material, but I suspect Napoleon Dynamite would be more enjoyable for viewers with no knowledge of the original movie whatsoever and came to these characters fresh. I can't help but think that if this animated series was a completely new enterprise, its originality could've been as celebrated as that of Bob's Burgers. As it is now, Napoleon Dynamite is merely a curio from a foregone era of trucker hats and The Simple Life, and I think we can all agree those are times best left forgotten.


What did you think of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series? Was it fresh enough to make it worth your time?

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This Series was 1000x better than the RIDICULOUS Bob's Burgers - That's for sure!!!

The FACT that ND was such a Cult film, and the FACT that its characters all came back for the animated series - and the FACT that it was ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS and the FACT that it was 1 of only a few Evening Animated series that Parents could watch it and Enjoy it, as well as with your 6 yr old, and your 16 yr old, and even with Grandma to- I guess means it HAD TO GO??? Bobs Burgers is a VILE attempt at humor, and besides that FACT that it's just NOT Funny - its a STUPID Series almost nobody can relate to - Unless you happen to be a 3rd generation burger joint owner!!! I am guessing there's actually about 12 of them in the entire USA - Since McDonald's and BK, and Wendy's etc.. have pretty much run all the Mom and Pop Burger Joints out of existence!!

I don't know who makes these decisions at Fox - but ND got a 2.5 rating, and had Little OR NO advertising- and NO advance notice that it was coming on the Air because it replaced another wilted prime-time series from FOX!! And still - ND got a 2.5 - 3.2 during the 6 weeks on the Air. Then they Follow it up the next season with another FILTHY Low-budget animated series that looks like its drawn by a 3 yr old with with Parkinson's - It's not Cutely drawn terrible either, it's just plain TERRIBLE!!!! All the way around!!
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I really enjoyed it and think it's pretty funny! I liked Allen Gregory too...needed more of a chance I think. I love the line up, Bob's Burgers is great, Family Guy is good but can be great again, American Dad is decent...and Simpsons is quite funny...The Cleveland Show I can do without, I just don't think it's that funny anymore. I hope they give ND a chance! Just my opinion......
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I thinks its ok. The thing is people are so dumb founded by family guy and the Simpsons that they cannot get into a new routine. cancel the Simpsons already i think 20 years is enough, and for family guy that should have state cancelled. They should have given Allen Gregory more of a chance. I don't know why people are trashing this show because I would have a lot to say about family guy and the Simpsons and their repetitiveness and bland programming.
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Talk about fox catering to the lowest common denominator; this show absolutely sucked. I cannot believe for one second that anyone can say this was better than Allen Gregory. Seriously. I actually enjoyed Allen Gregory and had no problem with some people not "getting" it, but when those same people say they like THIS show better...well your opinion is now no longer valid; you may also be mentally handicapped.
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B6, DROP FOR YOUR SENSEI!!
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Its just too different from the movie for me. They should have just left it alone
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Plus all the characters suck. None of them are even remotely interesting.
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I gave this show a chance. First of all I hated the movie. It was not only one of the worst movie of all time but one of the worst things I ever seen this side of Two Girls One Cup. So my expectations were very low. Well the show is terrible. I rated it a 1 only because I give it a negative rating. As bad as the movie was, this was probably as bad if not worst. I still will give it chance but I hope this show gets canceled. How bad is this show? Allen Gregory is the best show ever by comparison.
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ND just is boring and not funny! plain and simple! its VANILLA!
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Napoleon Dynamite has the same FOX animation style that I noticed with King Of The Hill.
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I'm not even done watching the episode, but had to come here to say that I am so in love with this adaptation already. So many great one liners, the animation fits perfectly with the tone of the show, all the voices are perfect. I was reminded of King of the Hill while watching, and I hope that continues, because King was the best. Speaking of best, so is Bob's Burgers. "All that she wants is another pizza, oh yeah!" Then they walked off stage! This cartoon actually makes me believe that the things Napoleon said in the movie was true, which I always felt was true truthfully! Ok, on to watch episode 2!!
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I enjoyed the show. I agree with you about it being different from the movie, but I've only seen the movie a handful of times so I didn't mind.
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I liked it and I liked the movie. But, I don't think the storyline can remain fresh very long. I definitely like it better than Allen Gregory and the Cleveland Show, but not as much as Bob's Burgers which very fresh and original.
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I actually liked it. For me, it was fun to watch it. I'll be honest that some people were way too harsh on Allen Gregory, and I'll admit it was somewhat stupid, but I gave the show a 4/5 for myself as I liked watching something different.

Back to topic, Napoleon Dynamite was funny. It was like the movie: somewhat of a forgettable and boring plot, but great comedy.

Can't wait for Bob's Burgers to come back.
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Too bad it was 8 years after the fact... I no longer care
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pointless, completely pointless
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Yeah, this is pointless. Here's my idea Fox; just stop it with the allen gregory and napoleon dynamite bullshit--just keep it simple ok, get a pen and paper & write this down--



8:00 The Simpsons

8:30 " Cleveland Show

9:00 Family Guy

9:30 American Dad



And while I have your attention (let's pretend) DON'T CANCEL FRINGE YOU &^&($^$*(%&*) idiots!!

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I kept getting the feeling that this would have been more at home on Saturday mornings than Sunday evenings.



I enjoyed the movie as a one-time foray into Idahoan quirkiness but this cartoon really didn't need to be made, especially so long after ND exited from pop culture consciousness. It's not hateful at all -- I'm looking at YOU, Allen Gregory -- but neither is it anything that I'm particularly interested in watching after its initial run ends.



And thanks for giving Bob's Burgers some love, Price.

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I kind of liked the movie, and I like Family Guy fine, that said, I didn't like this. Not because it wasn't funny, but because the weekly antics of Napoleon Dynamites seems like something I'd get really tired of really quickly.
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I hated the movie..... Not going to bother with the cartoon.
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I really liked the movie when it came out and quickly got tired of everything else that came after... That being said, 8 years is a long time (as Price so lovingly demonstrated) and that has given me an appropriate amount of time to put it all out of my mind. I felt that this kept with the original spirit of the movie in it's very unique sense of humor while still feeling fresh. I laughed plenty during it and I currently like it much more than any of the current Macfarlane fare.
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i like the movie and i loike family guy and bob's burgers, so i think i will enjoy this one too. thank's for the tip!
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Odd; neither great nor awful. Really don't like Kip or the Grandma. Felt like an Idaho version of "King of the Hill" with fewer jokes. This would probably be better as 4 to 6 episodes rather than a full series.
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It was my understanding that only six episodes have been ordered at present.

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um the simple life was the best reality tv show ever
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i didnt watch the movie but i found the series enjoyable.
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"It's not as bad as Allen Gregory was..."



I quit reading after that blatant lie. Napoleon Dynamite was and always will be one of the biggest shits that Hollywood has ever pushed out.
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When were trucker hats in?
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eh...it was okay.
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Does this mean in ten years we'll have to put up with a Michael Cera cartoon?
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It'll be a lot sooner than that, trust me.....
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You know he started out in cartoons, heh.
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Hopefully only if it's Scott Pilgrim: The Animated Series.
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As long as he doesn't do his trademarked dance, this show should stick around for the rest of the season.
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It was for the money of course. For some reason hipsters seem to be ruling the world and the demand for old pop culture seems to be too high. But the movie was hilarious and the show passed my expectations. At worst, this could have been a cheap cash cow that wasn't funny and a poor carbon copy of the movie but we got some thing that was kinda cool and made me laugh that one time but wasn't all that spectacular.



I don't know why Allen Gregory got such a bad rap. It was the first show that made you hate the protagonist. They want you to loathe how awful he is because we all know a douche like Allen Gregory. It didn't apologize for his behavior, like that dick in real life, and they didn't try to make him look like he wasn't a big dirty d-bag. Know one has every done that on purpose with a star of the show in cartoons. Bob's Burgers should come back thou.
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The movie was good. Of course I saw it when it came out and I was 17-18. The cartoon didnt really seem to resemble the movie at all. Characters didnt seem to act anything like in the movie which just threw me off. I love animated shows, but this is one I am going to pass on. Just wasnt that funny or entertaining.
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This is a decent TV show, but it's far superior than Allen Gregory. Part of the problem is that this show came out LONG after the movie, so it suffers from too little too late. Another issue is that some of the jokes feel flat and bland. It's not a bad show, but it could use improvement.
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It was ok. But then, I never saw the movie. Had I seen it I might have a different opinion. Nothing was overly funny, or overly bad. It was just kind of there. It didn't push any boundaries like South Park or Archer. So I am not sure where it fits in the realm of animation comedy on TV, especially in prime time on a network.
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"So by comparison, Napoleon Dynamite is okay, but it's definitely no Bob's Burgers or even latter-day The Simpsons."



Bob's Burgers is one of the biggest disgraces to animated comedy I've ever seen. It makes The Cleveland Show look like comedy genius.
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say what?it is funny as hell
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I would say something similar to this if I were feeling generous.
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Despite Fox putting plugs for the show in heavy rotation, my interest wasn't piqued. I didn't like the movie that much, either.
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Animation is all well and good, but I'm with you, either whoever first said "Hey, lets make a Napoleon Dynamite cartoon" was completely out of ideas and just stopped trying all together or Fox has found a way to turn a bigger profit on getting shows cancelled, this show was, at best a horrible idea.
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I felt the same way, mixed. It wasn't bad, it did make me laugh a few times. But at the same time there was nothing that really made it stand out from all the other animated comedies on TV today.
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It was ROFL funny. I enjoyed both episodes very much. I am also glad that the ratings were so high, maybe it'll stick around for a while.
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I love the movie Napoleon Dynamite and now there's a cartoon series. It couldn't be any better than that!! I hope to see more future episodes. Television in general needs more cartoons like this one.
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It was awesome! I don't know what's wrong with the haters. Live-action or animated, the show was really funny and enjoyable and definitely worth watching. FOX needs to let this series live awhile.
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Eh, back in the day, "haters" (vastly overused & redundant slang) were called "critics". Objectivity & personal preferences is allowed in critiquing.
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