I guess there’s a reason we don’t really hear about great animated movies from Lionsgate and Splash Entertainment. If Norm of the North is any indication, they don’t make them! This movie was simply boring, with some of the worst character development and weakest plot points I’ve ever seen in a movie about preserving the environment. Little kids who don’t know better may still enjoy watching Norm for the cute animals, occasional pop songs, and cartoonish style. But the adults – except for a few random lines that are tossed their way (i.e. over the kids’ heads) – will be yearning for a thousandth replay of Frozen or Inside Out.
The premise seemed solid enough: An influx of tourists and a real estate development company are posing a threat to the pristine Arctic environment that is home to polar bears, sea lions, and other cold-weather critters. So one of the polar bears – a bit of a misfit named Norm (Rob Schneider), who happens to speak ‘human’– takes it upon himself to save his homeland by going to New York, posing as an actor in a polar bear suit, and undermining the plans of a maniacal developer named Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong). Along the way, Norm enlists the help of a trio of lemming friends (think ‘minions’ – with GI issues) and the smart, eco-sensitive daughter of Mr. Greene’s assistant Vera (Heather Graham).
There’s a bunch of stuff that is never fully explored or explained in what felt like a very long 86 minutes, including how and why Norm’s grandfather ended up in a cage in Mr. Greene’s basement, why Vera’s daughter desperately wants to get into a snooty and elitist private school, and what’s behind Norm’s music and dance choices (including his signature move, the Arctic Shuffle).
Norm of the North tries to steal – or, um, emulate – certain elements from the likes of Happy Feet and Madagascar, but fails to come together in any cohesive or compelling way. My favorite line in the movie comes from a stereotypical director who is trying to shoot a commercial on the arctic ice when everything goes awry. “We’ll fix it in post [production]!” he yells as they pull up stakes and head home. If only.