'Napoleon Dynamite' isn't

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REVIEW

ANIMATED PREMIERE "Napoleon Dynamite"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on FOX/5

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A Mike Scully ("The Simpsons") and Jared Hess animated series based on the life of the world's geekiest teen, from Preston, Idaho. Voiced by the original movie cast, including Napoleon (Jon Heder), his brother Kip (Aaron Ruell), pal Pedro (Efren Ramirez), girlfriend Deb (Tina Majorino), Grandma (Sandy Martin), Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) and Rex Kwan Do (Diedrich Bader). Only one key character is missing -- Lafawnduh.

I spoke with Hader a few days ago. A brief snippet of our conversation:

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Why bring this back to TV?

I believe it was more coming from Fox -- kind of like, "We think it's been long enough and certainly the fans want more stuff."

How did you navigate network interference?

@Newsday

They talked to Jared (Hess and his brother, Jerusha, who wrote the movie) and he was on board. He talked to others of us and everyone was on board because the feeling was that no one wanted to do a show or sequel unless everyone was involved.

Why animated?

Because going into the TV world it almost belonged in animated. If you tried doing a live action, it'd be a watered-down version of the movie. And we don't all look like we all looked [in the film].

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MY SAY The 2004 movie was one of those fabled stories of the big screen, where an eccentric little film blasted past its indie confines to become a beloved mainstream classic. In hindsight, no one should have been surprised: Flawlessly written and cast with Heder in the lead role, it was sweet, gentle, funny and above all, honest. Trying to recapture lightning -- in an animated bottle, so to speak, and on Fox -- would seem sheer folly. Maybe it is. Despite flashes of the original charm, this series will disappoint some fans of the original. The movie was funny because it was plausible; this cartoon is largely not funny because it is implausible. In spots, it's been turned into an antic Saturday morning cartoon. A shame.

GRADE C+

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