Fans of the 2004 movie “Napoleon Dynamite” are a select, fiercely loyal set. They are also somewhat of a niche audience, which might make it a tough proposition as a crossover animation hit in the best possible scenario. Sadly, Sunday’s (Jan. 15) series premiere of “Napoleon Dynamite” on FOX is not the best possible scenario.
Don’t get us wrong. We wanted this show to be a success because we liked the movie and everyone attached to it — most of whom are along for the animated ride, too. Jon Heder (Napoleon) is here, along with Jon Gries (Uncle Rico), Aaron Ruell (Kip), Efren Ramirez (Pedro) and the incomparable Diedrich Bader (Rex). Not to mention Tina Majorino (Deb) and Sandy Martin (Grandma).
Part of the unexpected genius of the movie was the deadpan delivery from the actors — much of the humor was visual. Sadly, it doesn’t translate to animation — at least not this animation. Taken together, the monotone voices and 2D characters end up falling flat.
The jokes, too, feel like they would’ve served the show better in 2004 — and in some cases earlier. The premise of the debut is that Napoleon gains super-strength from a zit cream and joins the PPC — the “Pioneer Punch Club” (aka Fight Club).
Sure, it’s a way to bring Rex into the story early, but the “Fight Club” reference feels stale, as does Kip’s quip about having a virtual pet. Really, Jared Hess? Tamagotchi was introduced in 1996. Maybe the hopelessly behind-the-times Kip would still be playing with one, but we’re not sure a large portion of the audience will even get it.
Also, the whole zit thing: Totally gross. Except for a few lonely fetishists there are probably very few people who enjoy watching (and hearing) pimples being popped. Especially when things get to the point of Grandma trying to pop them with a hunting knife.
Yes, it’s that bad.
Silver lining: There’s nowhere to go but up.