Norm Of The North may be the worst family film to receive a theatrical release since The Oogieloves And The Big Balloon Adventure played to empty rooms in late summer 2012. The film, which stars comedian Rob Schneider as a talking polar bear, is little more than series of tired comedy tropes, dance breaks and dated cultural references that all feel far too familiar for their own good.
Let’s back up. Norm Of The North tells the story of Norm, a polar bear who is able to speak “human.” All the animals in the film speak English, but apparently that is not the same as speaking “human.” Anyways, an evil businessman (voiced by Ken Jeong) is trying to setup a housing development in the arctic that impedes on the land inhabited by Norm and the other cold weather critters. Faced with the possibility of having to live next to humans, the animals decide to send Norm to New York City in order to convince the mankind they do not want to live in a place where everything is frozen. No one joining Norm can speak human, but he does have three adorable and indestructible lemmings at his side. If you don’t know what a lemming is, don’t fret. Just think of them as Minions with fur because that is exactly what these creatures are supposed to be (and the film does not try to hide this fact in any way).
I’m all for a feel-good adventure that speaks to the importance of conservation while also tackling mankind’s seemingly unstoppable thirst for corporate development, but Norm Of The North cares very little about speaking to either of these points. Instead, the film uses its blueprint to execute a series of mindless gags, pointless dance breaks and numerous references to twerking and other instantly dated lingo from the digital age that arrive with all the hilarity of a dead dog. To make matters worse, the animation looks cheap and the voice acting leaves just about everything to be desired. Family films do not need Oscar-worthy performances, but they do need some level of conviction, and try as Schneider, Jeong or fellow lead voice actor Heather Graham might not one person involved in this project can offer a single sentiment that gives you any reason at all to care for what’s happening onscreen. There are films that make stupidity cute, but this is not one of them. This is just stupid.
The one bright side to the entire debacle is its soundtrack, which is comprised of a surprising number of legitimate radio hits, including “Gangnam Style” and the ever-iconic Michael Jackson single “Billie Jean.” These songs come in handy as the only entertaining bits of the film’s numerous dance sequences, but I suspect the high cost of licensing such material may explain why other aspects of this feature feel cheap (such as voice cast, animation, script revisions, etc.).
Norm Of The North was originally planned as a direct-to-DVD project, and it’s clear fairly early on in the film that such release efforts would have been a far better path for the studio to pursue. When experienced in a home filled with young children and related distractions, it might be somewhat easier to swallow the bland, unimagined comedic flavor this movie attempts to sell as original thought. Your children, likely distracted by toys, tablets or some other thing outside the film, would probably enjoy it more in that setting as well, if only because they would be able to ask you to put literally anything else on. This is not a movie for kids, adults or anyone in between. It’s junk, plain and simple, and if it weren’t for the film receiving a theatrical push for some unknown reason it would never even be something you considered putting on. Resist all urge to give this movie a shot and maybe, just maybe, your kids will grow up to recognize crap cinema for the scam it really is.