Movie Review: Polar unbearable an abnormally noxious ‘Norm of the North’

Bob Tremblay More Content Now
Norm of the North (voiced by Rob Schneider) with the Lemmings.

Courtesy Photo/Lions Gate

“Norm of the North” goes south real quickly. It’s the type of movie that’s so horrible on so many levels that instead of compelling you to care for the environment – its alleged goal – it makes you root for global warming. Hey, kiddies, let’s turn the Arctic into a pile of slush and wipe out these vermin.

The animated film opens with Norm the polar bear (voice of Rob Schneider) bemoaning the fact that he can’t catch and kill his prey, which in this case is a seal. He goes on a lengthy chase, which is supposed to be comical but instead tedious. The film is very good at being tedious. No need for sedatives here. The film is its own downer.

Anyway, when he finally “catches” the seal, Norm tells him his boring backstory and then poses for tourists, who represent a threat to his unspoiled surroundings. Norm actually never overcomes his hunting ineptitude. If you want to see polar bears actually behaving like polar bears and dismantling their prey, you’re going to the wrong movie. This is a cuddly killing machine.

Norm soon discovers that he has more important things to worry about than starving to death. An evil developer – isn’t that redundant? – wants to build luxury condos in the Arctic – with its charming glacial views in subzero temperatures - and Norm has to stop him. The developer’s name is Mr. Greene (voice of Ken Jeong). We assume the filmmakers are alluding to green as it pertains to money rather than green as it pertains to the environment. Or, maybe they’re being ironic. Who cares? Norm simply doesn’t like Mr. Greene, because this bear is also an eco-friendly killing machine.

But wait, there’s more.

Norm can also talk to humans, so who better to travel to New York where Mr. Greene lives in order to save his homeland? He’s accompanied by arctic lemmings, who curiously enough look a lot like Minions, except they’re furry. I’m sure that was a coincidence. They’re supposed to act as comic relief. Instead, they spend more of their time relieving themselves. Yes, this film contains plenty of bodily function jokes, a sure sign of a film desperate for laughs. But, hey, if your children like farting and urinating gags, they should be amused.

Acting as the go-between in these machinations is the incredibly sweet Vera (voice of Heather Graham), Mr. Greene’s assistant. Now you may ask yourself, “What is an incredibly sweet person doing working for an ogre like Mr. Greene?” Well, she needs Mr. Greene’s help in getting her incredibly sweet daughter Olympia (voice of Maya Kay) into a prestigious school for gifted children. You see, it’s Mr. Greene’s alma mater. Olympia is also an eco-friendly incredibly cute gifted child so she hopes to help Norm out.

Mr. Greene, meanwhile, is trying to get authorities to approve his project and hopes to use Norm as his patsy.

Oh, almost forgot. Norm has a wise grandfather (voice of Colm Meany), a wise gull (voice of Bill Nighy) and a wise polar bear love interest (voice of Loretta Devine) to spur him on into action. Where’s the wise snowy owl? Or the Wise potato chips?

One of the film’s many problems is that every single one of these characters is as interesting as an inkblot thanks to a nondescript script by committee - stereotypes abound.    

To try to offer a respite from this overbearing (sorry) blandness, Norm dances. A lot. These unimaginative sequences are ideal for popcorn runs.

Trevor Wall makes his directorial debut here, and it’s as auspicious as the maiden voyage of the Titanic. The only difference is there are no rescue boats to save you from this disaster. You just have to try to grin and bear it. Sorry again.

January is traditionally the dumping ground for substandard films and “Norm of the North” fits the bill, adding yet another piece of detritus to this ever-expanding garbage heap. It also adds yet another stinker to Schneider’s malodorous resume. The most untalented man in movies today proves he’s even wretched in animated form.

“Norm of the North” has the advantage of being the only animated film for parents to choose from this month, assuming their children have seen all the excellent ones such as “Inside Out,” “The Good Dinosaur,” “Shaun the Sheep” and “The Peanuts Movie.” All I can say is that if “Norm” becomes successful enough to spawn a sequel, Mother Nature is sure to upchuck ice cubes.

“Norm of the North” is 93 insufferable minutes long and rated PG for mild rude humor and action. It is directed by Trevor Wall and features the voices of Rob Schneider, Heather Graham and Ken Jeong.