Norm of the North

Posted by Joel Copling on January 15, 2016

One spends the 86 endless minutes of "Norm of the North" wondering how it didn't end up in the home-video bargain bins of Walmart or Best Buy. Trevor Wall's animated film is extraordinarily useless, telling a banal tale of anti-capitalism through the prism of twerking polar bears, lemming-related fart humor, and a villain who is so over-the-top that every movement, no matter the tone of the conversation taking place, is one of a break-dancer with no rhythm or, for that matter, audience. Indeed, it's difficult to discern to what audience the film hopes to play. Adults will simply find it annoying, and kids will be bored of an intended message that will go straight over their heads.

The polar bear in question is Norm (voice of Rob Schneider), a hunter who has strangely evolved to be able to converse with humans. He's being primed for fiefdom over the Arctic wildlife after his grandfather (voice of Colm Meaney) went missing years before--that is, until a real estate mogul named Mr. Greene (voice of Ken Jeong), whose name is exactly the stand-in one might think, plots to populate the icy continent with condominiums. Obviously, this would make the area inhospitable for Norm, his family, and their friends, so the bear, alongside his fluffy lemming friends/pets, follow prospective Greene Homes realtor Vera (voice of Heather Graham) back to the U.S.

Vera has her own skin in this game, with the future of her employment and the level of education for her daughter on the line. Greene eventually becomes legitimately murderous when Norm, hired by him under the pretense of being a human actor underneath a costume to be a mascot for the Arctic, discovers where his grandfather disappeared to years ago. His next step is to undo Greene's plan and take back his homeland. Really, though, screenwriters Daniel Altiere, Steven Altiere, and Michael T. Goldman use this as a springboard for kindergarten-level humor that will exhaust even those of the single digits. The barebones plot is the stuff of a far more serious venture than this juvenilia.

Some workable stuff ekes through. Vera's daughter is sweet enough as a character, and though none of the voice actors seems all that invested in the material (To be fair, who would?), the issue of the daughter's education is enough of a motivation to see Vera succeed. Unfortunately, this part of the thread is solved far too tidily and last-minute to distract from how inconsequential it becomes too. Elsewhere, there is nothing interesting about the film's politics, which boil down far too simply, or the animation, which is blocky and jerky and remind of a straight-to-cable effort on Disney XD from the mid-2000s. "Norm of the North" perhaps doesn't deserve such a formal breakdown, though, because this isn't even bad in a way that catches the eye.

Film Information

Featuring the voices of Rob Schneider (Norm), Heather Graham (Vera), Ken Jeong (Mr. Greene), Bill Nighy (Socrates), Colm Meaney (Grandfather), Loretta Devine (Tamecia), Zachary Gordon (Younger Norm), and Gabriel Iglesias (Pablo/Stan).

Directed by Trevor Wall and written by Daniel Altiere, Steven Altiere, and Michael T. Goldman.

Rated PG (mild rude humor, action).

86 minutes.

Released on January 15, 2016.