Norm of the North
2016, PG, 86 min. Directed by Trevor Wall. Voices by Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, Maya Kay, Bill Nighy, Colm Meaney, Loretta Devine, Michael McElhatton.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Jan. 22, 2016
Are your kids unable to wait until Kung Fu Panda 3 comes out in a couple of weeks, and in dire need of an animated bear fix right this very minute? A whining child who won’t take no for an answer is the only reason I can think of to recommend seeing Norm of the North. Were you a sadist, you’d take the child to The Revenant to see Leo getting mauled by that now-infamous bear. But, no, you’re a parent, and therefore, by definition, a bit of a masochist, and that is the only reason you should book a playdate with Norm.
Norm (voiced by Rob Schneider) is a talking bear who finds his calling when he travels to New York with three playful lemmings to discourage a developer from building a new subdivision in the Arctic. His nemesis is Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong) of Greene Homes, whose sales representative Vera (Heather Graham) does his bidding because she wants her boss to recommend her daughter Olympia (Maya Kay) for acceptance into a prestigious private school. Instead of making his case, Norm gets co-opted by Greene, who turns the bear into the endeavor’s mascot. “An icon with a voice can be very powerful,” muses Norm before he realizes he’s been played.
Told in a chaotic fashion, the movie jumps from scene to scene without a lot of continuity. Various subplots – the disappearance and rescue of Grandpa (Colm Meaney), the tourist invasion of the Arctic, Norm’s ties to Olympia and Vera – emerge and then disappear in swift succession. The animation is rudimentary, with the Arctic expanse appearing as dull, unbroken blocks of white ice and blue sky. It makes you wonder why anyone would really want to go there. The kids who were at the screening I attended did not seem to engage with the movie, and afterward in the bathroom I overheard two tykes tell their mom that they did not like Norm, though they did not elaborate. If your kids still insist on a bear fix, revisit 2015’s Paddington, or check out the National Zoo’s live online Panda Cam, where you can observe 24/7 the real-time activities of mom Mei Xiang and her panda cub Bei Bei. Paws down, these are the cutest animal videos on the Web.
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Norm of the North, Trevor Wall