Last month, Borat Sagdiyev's surprise return (and return-to-form) in Amazon Prime's Borat Subsequent Moviefilm proved to be an unexpected success. Sacha Baron Cohen's stealthy streaming sequel to his 2006 megahit reunited fans with the popular comedy character, introducing him to a different time and a new cultural landscape but not losing the core elements that made the original movie such an underdog smash.
Now that Borat 2 went against the odds and came out triumphant, should other cult classic comedies consider making continuations to their well-beloved movies? It's a dangerous decision, one that's likely to result in more Zoolander 2-type failures than anything successful. But, if you'll bear with me, how about Napoleon Dynamite 2? Is it time to revisit the hapless protagonist from Jared Hess's 2004 cultural phenomenon? Or is he better left in his time?
Let's weigh the pros and cons of a potential Napoleon Dynamite 2.
Pro: Napoleon Dynamite 2 Would Reunite Us With Napoleon And (Possibly) Other Characters From The First Film
When it comes to any sequel, especially one that's this late in the game, the most exciting promise is the chance to be reunited with the eccentric personalities we loved from the original, particularly after so much time apart. We get to see what they're up to and how things have changed (or haven't changed) since we last saw them.
Should Napoleon Dynamite 2 happen, we'll obviously be reacquainted with our dorky title character, but we'll also (possibly) have a chance to catch up with supporting standouts like Pedro (Efren Ramirez), Kip (Aaron Ruell), Uncle Rico (Jon Gries), Deb (Tina Majorino), Lafawnduh (Shondrella Avery), and maybe Grandma (Sandy Martin).
There's no guarantee that everyone will return, but the possibility is enticing.
Con: It’s Hard To Recreate What Made Napoleon Dynamite Special
2004's Napoleon Dynamite is a true "lightning in a bottle" success. It's a humble indie comedy that earns the right to be called "quirky," a term that's commonly (now overly) used for many movies in this vein, that found its footing at the Sundance Film Festival, received a sizable theatrical rollout, and eventually became a cultural phenomenon — the likes of which massively exceeded everyone's expectations. It was an astonishing hit, particularly on home video, and a well-deserved triumph, too.
Even though it's been quoted to death, Napoleon Dynamite was such a huge hit not simply because it's ridiculously funny. It also carries a rich visual style, celebrates endearing characters, and wears a big, beating heart. While it's understandable to want to capitalize on that success, it'll be extremely hard to recapture everything that made the original such a rare and unlikely cultural sensation.
Pro: Jon Heder Has Expressed Interest In Making Napoleon Dynamite 2 As Recently As September
Given Napoleon Dynamite's astonishing success, it's unsurprising to know that the creatives involved with the original have considered making a sequel. The notion has been expressed in the past. In fact, it was proposed as recently as this year! In September, during a Wizard World panel, Jon Heder said he was open to Napoleon Dynamite 2, so long as they could finalize a script that was a worthy continuation.
When it came to his personal feelings for where his title character should be nowadays, the actor claimed that "the future for Napoleon would be a lot more raw and edgy." He noted that Jared Hess wouldn't approach it with "your typical, 'Let's do a sequel where they all look the same and they all act the same'"-type concept. Rather, Napoleon Dynamite 2 would explore "an interesting development in their lives."
Keeping in mind that Napoleon Dynamite is such a self-contained film about a wayward teenager who wants to do right by his newfound friend and prove himself to his demeaning classmates, it's hard to know what exactly a long-awaited sequel would entail. Particularly one that arrives decades later. Nevertheless, it's fascinating that a sequel is being proposed now.
Given that Napoleon Dynamite was largely defined by (and celebrated for) its cutesy, idiosyncratic sensibilities, it's intriguing (or possibly concerning) that this hypothetical sequel would go out of its way to divorce itself from what people commonly associate with the original's charm. Whether this idea works for the better or worse is something that needs to be determined by the final product.
Con: The Animated Series Didn’t Live Up To The Movie
In 2012, there was an attempt to recapture Napoleon Dynamite's magic with Fox's short-lived series, which was also called Napoleon Dynamite. Created by Jared and Jerusha Hess, who wrote the film's screenplay, the animated show found the entire cast reprising their roles. While it came out nearly ten years later, the animated format allowed every character to remain the same age they were back in 2004.
Alas, while the cartoon came with hopeful expectations, Fox's Napoleon Dynamite was a disappointment. The reviews were mixed and the ratings dipped heavily after the premiere. After only six episodes, Fox pulled the plug. Though this show wasn't intended to be a typical "sequel," it's the only official continuation that we've gotten (so far). Based on the end results, lightning didn't strike twice.
Pro: Napoleon Dynamite 2 Would Reintroduce Us To Napoleon As An Adult, Closer To Kip's Age
If we get Napoleon Dynamite 2, it'll be decades later. The teenager we met before would be closer to his guileless older brother's age than the young nitwit we once knew. In fact, with Jon Heder now in his 40s, the title character will definitely be middle-aged in this hypothetical sequel. Given the large swath of time between films, it'll be interesting to see where Napoleon is in life, and how he's changed — or hasn't — with time.
Hopefully, as Jon Heder noted, this proposed sequel wouldn't simply be a rehash of the original but something compellingly different with the same people. While that might deter fans who want the same meal twice over, it's probably the most promising direction to follow.
Con: Decades-Later Sequels Rarely Live Up To Their Predecessors
Frankly, the truth of the matter is that decades-later sequels rarely live up to their predecessors. Even the most successful ones receive their share of criticism among the most die-hard fans. Most especially when it comes to cult comedies, the first film's unsuspecting success hinges on it coming out at the exact right time. Trying to get all the ingredients right a second time is often a losing game.
Perhaps even more so than the other movies we've listed, Napoleon Dynamite came out of nowhere and defied all odds when it became one of 2004's most celebrated movies. Therefore, it's practically a fool's errand to attempt to rejuvenate that spark 20 years later in the 2020s.
It's not impossible, though.
Pro: There’s More Humor To Mine From Napoleon Dynamite’s Middle-America Awkwardness, Particularly As A Fledgling Adult
As noted earlier, now that Napoleon Dynamite will be well into adulthood, there's more humor to mine from his awkward, humble-minded surroundings in this sequel. The original's success wasn't based solely on our geeky lead's goofy perspective. Rather, it's the strange Middle America environment he inhabits.
While we've gotten a glimpse at the adults who live inside this peculiar cinematic world, we haven't interacted with them much. Through this sequel, which explores what Dynamite is like as a fledgling adult, we'll get a look at the other side of the coin and see how the unsophisticated adults act with their peers in their "normal" day-to-day lives.
Personally, I'd be curious to see Napoleon returning to his high school reunion either as a new adult with something to prove or as the same dweeb he was before, while everyone he once knew has changed drastically — for better or worse.
Con: Most Of Jared Hess’ Follow-Up Movies Were Disappointing
When it comes to the possibility of Jared Hess recapturing Napoleon Dynamite's signature success, its biggest looming threat is the discerning fact that nothing Hess made since then has been nearly as successful, either critically or commercially. The closest he got was his 2006 sophomore film, Nacho Libre, which is charming thanks to Jack Black's commendable performance, but it underwhelmed critics and didn't earn much of a cultural following.
Then there was 2009's Gentlemen Broncos, which was an awful misfire that received rotten reviews and didn't even earn $200,000 from its semi-modest $10 million budget.
Furthermore, Jared Hess's most recent features, 2015's Don Verdean and 2016's Masterminds, have mostly been forgotten or ignored. Generally speaking, their reviews were middling-at-best and scathing-at-worst. Outside of TV and some film projects left idling (including a proposed Nicktoons movie), Hess's career has stalled. He hasn't found much acclaim away from his outstanding debut, so it's hard to imagine a sequel reaching the high bar of the original.
But maybe returning to Mr. Dynamite's acute world is what the one-(maybe two)-hit-wonder filmmaker needs to reclaim his cultural status.
Do you think Napoleon Dynamite 2 should happen? Sound off in the comment section! Okay? Gosh!
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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