Sunday, August 17, 2014


I wonder if they can get Rico some Suave while they're there?

I told you I was going to do it. If I was going to review Napoleon Dynamite the movie, I made up my mind to review Napoleon Dynamite the cartoon. I'm sure at least seven others recall it.

As we know, the original movie was quite successful when it came out. Given how neatly the story wrapped up (Pedro wins the election, Napoleon and Deb patch things up, Kip lands a girlfriend, etc.), there wasn't much room for continuing the story... yet they did anyway.

Eight years later.

That was one thing that did this show in: it hit TV too late. By 2012, Nappy D had settled from a pop culture phenomenon to just a cult classic. Not exactly a smart move.

Another thing that killed this show? It played on FOX. The curse of FOX is pretty simple to understand: if your show plays on that network, there is a substantial chance that it will get cancelled before it can accrue a following (Firefly being an exception as it had one) or keep it on the air for so long that people will be in the streets demanding it to be given the ax.

*Death Glare*

The decisions behind airing this show were as questionable as can be, but what of the quality of the show itself?


Well, one thing the cartoon had going for it was casting. Almost every actor from the movie returns to reprise their respective roles (Jon Heder as Napoleon, Jon Gries as Uncle Rico, Tina Majorino as Deb etc.). The only exception was Don (originally played by Trevor Snarr), Summer's jock boyfriend and fellow Popular, now played by Nappy D co-creator Jared Hess.

For the most part, this is a continuation of the movie: the characters know each other, stuff that happened in the film are referenced (Napoleon's dance), but LaFawnduh was totally ignored. 

I'm not making this up: in the first episode Kip dates another woman called Misty (and, no, we ain't talking Pokemon here) and has gone back to dressing like a dweeb:

Did a wormhole open up while they were riding away on that horse, suck her in, and erase all memories of her? 
Was she NOT his soul mate like he claimed? 
Did producer Mike Scully do what Thomas Jefferson did with the Bible and remove the stuff he didn't like?
To quote AOSTH Robotnik... "WHY? WHY? WHY!?"

So yeah. Much of the latter stages of the movie were ignored for reasons unknown.

Also, it would seem that Rico's girlfriend dumped him again and he's back to hanging around Napoleon and Kip. 

The character personalities are also a bit of a mixed bag. Napoleon's still a monotone geek who loves ligers and has a hushed affinity for Oriental melee weapons; Pedro's more or less the same as he was in the movie; Summer is still a vapid Popular that dislikes Napoleon; Rico's still a moocher trying to find quick bucks. Kip, as stated above, has reverted to his pre-LaFawnduh status of loser big brother and does the added bonus of taking his dates to Chuck E. Cheese clones for dinner. Don has been merged with the bit player Randy (Randy was just a run-of-the-mill bully in the film, so there wasn't a lot to discuss). Deb, however, was given a closeted love for Napoleon. It MIGHT have developed between movie and series in-universe, but no mention of it was made before.

What about the writing? Since this show only lasted six episodes, I can briefly go over each.


Napoleon fights Kip over the last fried chicken breast they got at a convenience store. Kip throws the greasy skin on his brother's forehead, causing Napoleon to get a big pimple problem. Rico buys Napoleon a recently banned acne cream called Rack-u-tane that makes the user stronger and more aggressive (Wasn't this kind of stuff somewhat common on Futurama?). After showing off the Rack-u-tane's enhancements during PE, Napoleon's coach sends him to a secret fight club run by Rex, founder of Rex Kwan Do.

While all this is going on, Kip has landed a date with a girl (the aforementioned Misty). It turns out that she's nuts and is attracted to physical strength (regardless of gender or marriage). When Napoleon, empowered by the ointment, draws Misty's attention, Kip tries to get back at his brother.

The Brothers Dynamite duke it out in the fight club's arena, the Thundercone (Doe ho ho), which goes down the road to pathetic when Kip uses up all the cream (got a little chuckle out of me, for what it was worth).

Also, the end credits for this one was cute. I won't spoil.

2: Scantronica Love

The school brings in a really 80's-looking scantron to pair up the students in some bogus love experiment (a sentiment shared by Napoleon). Pedro lands Summer (much to little miss Popular's chagrin... and MY amusement), Deb gets Don, and Napoleon winds up with a Japanese exchange student called Tokiko.

Everyone tries to warm up to their partners, but when Napoleon learns that Tokiko only came to America in order to learn how to act like a stereotypical American teenage girl, Napoleon realizes that Mr. Pornstache in the picture above was full of crap. To everyone else (including Deb) it seems to be accurate.

Summer and Pedro break up in a split second and join forces with Napoleon to save Deb from promising to promise to marry Don (yes, you read that correctly), leading to the climax on Don's houseboat.

I think I've seen the whole "computer/inanimate object tells you how to run your life" plot on Doug and Hey Arnold! years ago. The message I got from them AND this was the same: COMPUTERS KNOW NOTHING!

Oh, there was also a subplot about Rico and Kip trying to make money with a fushigi ball. Go figure!

3: Ligertown

The episode begins with the lowest point of the show: trying to see what happens if you try to fart, sneeze, burp, and yawn at the same time. Fortunately, it doesn't get dragged out like many other bodily jokes on that same animation block. But the act breaks Granny Dynamite's transition lenses and Napoleon has to find an after-school job to pay for them. He lands a job on the only liger farm in Idaho. Much to his anger, the ligers have gotten lazy. When he finds out one is in labor and has its baby, Napoleon faints.

While passed out, Napoleon gets a vision from the first (and only humanoid) liger, Shasta, who wants Napoleon to train the newborn to be what a liger is supposed to be; he takes it home with him when he regains consciousness. After he fails to feed Shasta steak and Deb gives him milk from Tina the llama. The milk gives the cub a huge amount of spunk. It roars, causing its mother to hear him at the farm. The ligers join together and wreak havoc on Preston, trying to find the cub. When the havoc forces the mayor to flee to Orlando, Pedro becomes leader of the town ("Student Body President" is on the town's chain of command). Will the cub be returned to its mother before Preston's reduced to rubble?

Despite the considerably rocky start this episode had (and the incident was mentioned twice as it progressed), it's actually one of the better episodes! The gags with the town going nuts as the ligers wrecked the place were really amusing... especially the mayor's flight to Orlando!

4: Pedro vs. Deb

Napoleon and Deb are working for Preston Senior High's struggling newspaper. Deb needs a big story to save it and Napoleon suggests a pretty, well, Napoleonesque story, but she refuses. Instead, she follows Pedro around all day interviewing him. When this bears nothing of interest, Pedro comforts her, saying that it isn't her fault that Preston's so boring. Ultimately, she takes him out of context and makes it the paper's headline. Thus, the two friends become enemies.

Because of that newspaper article, the whole town turns against Pedro. Napoleon tries to get everyone to forgive him with the dance he gave at the end of the movie, complete with LaFawnduh's tape (She's not in this show, so what's the point?). Pedro and Deb refuse to make amends and demand that Napoleon chose between them. Will Preston continue to hate Pedro or will it take a monster to reforge his and Deb's bonds of camaraderie?

Meanwhile, Kip wants to exercise his Second Amendment rights.

Apart from a noticeable hiccup, this episode was okay. It had this little joke that put a twist on the whole Blair Witch Project concept. The friends-no-more idea, however, has been done a million times: A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Rugrats, and a mess of others; you know how it will end.

5: Bed Races

Granny Dynamite has won Preston's annual Bed Race six years straight. Rico really wants to win and even goes as far as to cheat by throwing an X-Ray blanket on Granny's bed. Rico becomes the talk of the town and Granny becomes your regular old woman. While Rico gets all kinds of free stuff, Napoleon becomes increasingly concerned about his grandmother's behavior. When the town threatens to mulch the hedge sculpture of her due to her defeat, Napoleon cracks and admits that he and his uncle cheated. Granny goes back to normal and rushes to save her sculpture! Will the Dynamites make it in time?

I've seen this cheating-a-friend-to-win-a-race concept was tackled earlier in an episode of Rocket Power, sans the dreams about napkin dispensers and random stuff talking. But that episode didn't include the Rico Shuffle!

I don't know why, but this made me laugh.

6: FFA

Napoleon's original partner in this upcoming Future Farmers of America competition drops out when the Populars make fun of their uniforms. He turns to Pedro, who agrees to come with him. Unfortunately, Napoleon's rival at the FFA, Filson, shows up. Filson's a rebel, dressing against regulation and showing off. Napoleon's efforts at the competition are further at stake when the Egg Queen starts hitting on him... little does he know she's working for Filson! Will Napoleon and Pedro be able to beat Filson or just get buried up to their necks and use their heads as weapons?

At the same time, the Dynamite residence is infested with Granddaddy Longlegs and has to be fumigated; until the spiders are gone, the Dynamites have to live in Rico's van.

The final episode of the show was pretty good. Not 100% certain about the way Napoleon reacted to when the Egg Queen starting hitting on him (then again, adolescent romance was something the movie never played up), but the way Napoleon's plot ends... well, I'll just say it's a nice call back to the way the movie ended. Had a few chuckles in this one, but the Granny/Kip/Rico plot is where this one shined.


Some people think this wasn't very good, but I wouldn't sell it so short. Let's face it, Allen Gregory is a hundred times worse. 

Does it have its flaws? Sure: unexplained exclusion of LaFawnduh, the fact that a bunch of the concepts that were seen numerous times before, not to mention the stupid simultaneous burp/fart/yawn/sneeze thing from the third episode. Furthermore, the fact that it aired so long after the movie didn't help audience participation (it was clobbered in the ratings) and the funding went to Bob's Burgers.

I'll also give the show some points for trying to keep the humor clean as it could. It still got a TV-14 rating sometimes due to the inclusion of stuff like guns and some double entendres, but compared to stuff like Family Guy/American Dad/The Cleveland Show and The Simpsons, it's really tame. I think the strongest swear I'd heard in it was either "crap" or "pissed". Call me a softie or something, but I have a lot of respect for shows that try to be funny without resorting to sex and bawdy stuff (though most of that can be attributed to the Hess Brothers' Mormon background).

That being said, the humor can be hit-and-miss. Some said that the animated gags don't work in a spin-off of a movie that was mostly a slice-of-life piece. I tend to disagree, the ending to "Thundercone" was kind of cool and the method they used to get on Don's houseboat was neat... but when the jokes fell flat, they fell flat.

Usually, the crew did a good job in recapturing the spirit of the original movie. An unnecessary follow-up? Maybe. But it was nice to see the characters again (though there were some minor changes to Deb's character). Perhaps if it came out around 2005 or early 2006 when Napoleon Dynamite was still fresh in people's heads, it could have done better. But alas!

For me, the cartoon was just okay; it wasn't great, yet not as terrible as it could have been. You'd be more likely to enjoy the cartoon if you loved the movie. But then again, that's just me.

I'm DLAbaoaqu. Heck yes!

Napoleon Dynamite (2012 TV) is owned by Jared and Jerusha Hess and FOX.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Just say "no" to Summer!

Remember how, I said in the UHF review that the 80's/90's Transitional Period was awesome for media? That's just me in response to the movies and TV shows that came during that era, though I wasn't old enough to be able to remember that much of that era and watched them later in life. On a personal level, the first half of the 2000's was a pretty nostalgic time for me. I was in high school and starting to get into anime.

During the time I was in my first semester of college, a friend of mine (whom I haven't, sadly, seen in years) asked me about a little movie called Napoleon Dynamite. I'd seen commercials for it beforehand and thought it was stupid without even looking at it. She said it one of the funniest things she'd ever seen in her life and let me borrow her DVD copy of it. Skeptical, took it to Dad's and watched it...

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

We begin getting to know the titular Napoleon (Jon Heder): he's this lanky nerd with a frozen face and absolutely no social skills. He tends to give "current events" to his class that involve wizards, the Loch Ness Monster and tell the jocks about his adventures in Alaska hunting wolverines. But his stories must be taken with a grain of salt, since he tends to make stuff up. My guess is that he doesn't want to brag about feeding a llama.

The high point of Napoleon's life.

He lives with his dorky thirty-something brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) and grandmother (Sandy Martin). Kip is an even bigger loser than Napoleon, spending most of his time online trying to get girls! He tries to join this martial arts program in an attempt to become a cage fighter... only to get smacked around by the bombastic sensei.

It's kinda hard to talk about what happens in the movie, because there isn't really a story! Yeah, if you were coming into this thing expecting a detailed plot, sorry, you won't find it. The movie actually has three! One plot ends halfway through the movie when the second is set into motion, while a subplot runs throughout the film.

Subplot: The Misadventures of Kip and Uncle Rico

About twenty-one minutes into the movie, Granny Dynamite breaks her coccyx while riding a dune buggy. As a result, Napoleon and Kip's ne'er-do-well Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) has to stay with them. Rico is a guy who held the ever-so-important position of benchwarmer on his college football team back in 1982. His obsession with his "glory days" eventually led to his girlfriend kicking him out, forcing him to live in his van and use a camcorder to film himself pretending to be in a football game.

"This is pretty much the worst video ever made!" (Wait until March 29, 2013, Napoleon)

Rico enlists Kip in helping him sell Tupperware all over Preston, Idaho. The situation may seem boring at first, but it results in the biggest laugh of the whole movie (I won't spoil it, but let's just say it involves Rico's van). Rico peddles his wares, even going as far as to make up sob stories about Napoleon just to get a little money.

What is the end result of the Tupperware escapade? Rico buys a "time machine" from a scammer.

Next, Rico tries to sell breast-enhancement stuff (something that gets Napoleon in all kinds of trouble; refer to Plot 2), but Kip opts out for a while -- he finally found a girl online who's interested in him and he refuses to give her any. Lucky for him... but the same can't be said for Rico (I won't say what happens, but it's so satisfying).

Plot A: Let's Go To the Hop!

A new student, Pedro Sanchez (Efren Ramirez), has moved from Mexico to Preston and quickly falls in with Napoleon. With the school dance looming, Pedro tries to one Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff) to go with him. He even bakes a cake for her.

Only one problem: Summer's POPULAR! So she says no.

Pedro also asked out another girl out, Debbie (Tina Majorino), who accepted. The viewer met Debbie earlier, when she tried to peddle boondoggle keychains to Napoleon in order to raise funding for college. She dumped her inventory on Napoleon's stoop and he had to give it back to her in exchange for a keychain. 

After Napoleon laments his inability to find a date, Pedro suggests that draws the girl he'd like to ask out and gives her the picture. He picks one Trisha Stevens and delivers it to her house.

After working on a chicken farm for a dollar per hour, Napoleon hears back from Trish (who was forced by her mother to respond, thanks to one of Uncle Rico's fabricated stories; see subplot). He tries to get Uncle Rico to be their chauffeur, but he's too busy with his Tupperware schemes to keep his word. Fortunately, Napoleon meets up with Pedro's cousins in their awesome ride! 

Hm, Trish doesn't seem thrilled about the date...
Oh. She's a popular kid. Of course. It all makes sense.

Naturally, Trish leaves Napoleon for the other Populars. Napoleon is clueless as to what happened to her, but Pedro lets him dance with Deb until she comes back. We quickly learn that there's nothing going on between her and Pedro, leaving the door open for her and Napoleon to get together.

With this, Plot 1 comes to an end.

PLOT B: Vote For Pedro

After seeing this poster as he runs to get water, Pedro decides to run for student body president. Predictably, Summer's thrown her hat into the ring and the Populars try to get Napoleon to support the caste system... but he sticks by Pedro.

Unfortunately for Pedro, his hair was somehow making him ill and he had to shave it all off. Napoleon and Deb give him a wig that makes him look like a "medieval warrior" and they hit the campaign trail. It seems promising at first, but Rico starts hawking Bust Must Plus herbal breast enhancers to every girl he can find... including the Populars. This results in Napoleon's locker getting plastered with Rico's flyers.

Pedro gets into trouble for making a pinata that looks like Summer (a common practice in Mexico). It would seem that Populars happen to be a protected caste in this universe because it's an insult "to the Gem State". As a result, Pedro's flyers are all taken down, giving Summer the advantage in PR.

During the pinata drama, Napoleon is rummaging around a thrift shop where he comes across a VHS tape that teaches people how to dance. He mostly practice the new moves in his bedroom... which is kinda disappointing for me because we see so little of it (it's a bit funky). He meets Kip's girlfriend LaFawnduh (Shondrella Avery), who's waiting on him to get ready for their date; Kip comes in (looking pretty street) and LaFawnduh gives Napoleon a mix tape as the couple leaves.

Kip always had more skills than his brother: champion of D&D, MC Escher's
his favorite MC...
Rico tries to push breast enhancers on Deb by lying about Napoleon wanting her to take them (see subplot); she falls for it and refuses to want anything to do with her ex-friend.

The day of the big speech comes. Summer gives this really "Ohmaggosh"-sounding speech that's actually kind of racist toward the end. Once it's over, they learn at the last second that candidates are required to perform a skit after the speech. 

Pedro's speech is pretty short and only gets scattered applause. When it's time for their sketch, Napoleon improvises with his new dance moves and LaFawnduh's tape.

It gets a standing ovation.

Ladies and gentlemen, the only two people who will NOT be cheering.

Pedro wins the election, Kip and LaFawnduh go steady, Granny Dynamite recovers, Rico's girlfriend comes back, and Napoleon and Deb get back together. Aw, we don't get to see Summer's pity party with Trish? Oh well...

The credits roll, and we're treated to an extra scene:

Kip and LaFawnduh tie the knot and the former sings an awful love song. Napoleon ends the singing by showing up with a stallion that he tamed for the couple to ride off into the sunset.



Napoleon Dynamite is like a coin being flipped: you only have a 50% chance of liking it and 50% chance of hating it (*coughcough*BradJones*cough*). 

As for me, I thought it was really good. I didn't know what to expect going in, but after it was over I wanted to own my own copy of it. I re-watched it a few times, every time I did I kept thinking that it was made twenty years after its time.

Seriously, it's almost like an 1980's John Hughes movie sans most of the bawdiness (a plus in my book -- gives it a broader audience). I don't just mean that in terms of how the movie feels, but also in the way it looks: the aesthetics, the high school setting, the background music, almost everything feels that way. If you weren't paying attention to the 90's dial-up internet or "Larger Than Life" by the Backstreet Boys, you'd think this was from that decade.

But if you came in to this movie thinking you'd find a garden variety high school movie that revolved around trying to become a homecoming king, stealing the rival school's mascot or whatever, prepare to have those notions destroyed. It pretty much subverts or downplays that stuff.

Still, it's a quirky little crowd-pleaser in my book. I'd say give it a watch, see how you react! The only real complaint I could imagine someone coming up with is pacing (it can get a little slow for some).

Oh, right. There was also a short-lived cartoon on FOX back in 2012.

Hmm... still August...

I'll follow up this review by looking at this!

I'm DLAbaoaqu. Lucky!

Napoleon Dynamite is owned by Fox Searchlight, Paramount, and, like, infinity other parties.