Norm of the North (Lionsgate, PG)

Norm of the North 75This movie won’t satisfy anybody.

Norm of the North 500

When I walked out of the Norm of the North screening, it had begun to snow. This was very fitting seeing as I hate snow, as well as this movie. If you’ve heard about it, you might have thought about the classic South Park episode featuring Rob Schneider in a variety of movie trailers playing different non-human characters. Well this time, Rob Schneider is…a polar bear! Personally, I’m not against Rob Schneider starring in a movie, especially if it’s just a harmless kiddie film. He’s perfectly capable of voicing an animated polar bear, although in the end the character of Norm doesn’t really succeed at being memorable. But really, Schneider is the least of this movie’s problems.

It’s a Madagascar-type movie with a Happy Feet twist, featuring the sensitive and oafish polar bear, Norm, who enjoys dancing and can speak the language of humans (presumably only English, though). When a sinister real estate developer, Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong) tries to develop properties on the North Pole (I know, I know) Norm decides to sneak himself into New York City and become the spokesperson for Greene’s real-estate company in an attempt to sabotage the campaign to destroy his home. Equally important to the plot are the numerous dance breaks. Since the filmmakers often don’t know how to flesh out a sequence with interesting scenes that move the story forward, they cut to polar bear dance parties set to the worst stock-hip-hop/R&B music you’ve ever heard. It’s a key element to this motion picture.

Whenever I watch something like this, it makes me feel bad for the parents the most. They’re the ones stuck watching it because the kids haven’t developed completely good movie judgment yet. Although I don’t want to sell little kids short, because one of the major things that irritates me about this kind of movie is how it cynically underestimates the intelligence of children. I’m not saying little kids will hate Norm of the North and see all the flaws like I did. They might laugh here and there, and then walk out of it generally content. But when their parents ask what they want to watch, they’re picking a Pixar or a DreamWorks film, or even classics from Disney or Don Bluth. This movie won’t satisfy anybody. Films like this are composed of cheap and ugly animation and lazy fart and piss jokes because kids don’t know any better, so who cares about the quality, right? Aesthetically and content-wise, it reeks of cheapness and carelessness all around.

On top of the integral flaws of the film that I just mentioned, it also suffers from horrendous character design. The villainous Mr. Greene slinks around in a snake-like manner, but so much so that he pushes the limits of cartoony human movement. It makes sense for an animated character to have exaggerated gestures, but when your legs can literally stretch like Mr. Fantastic and you practically defy the laws of gravity when you so much as move down a hallway, the result is overwhelming and garish. The film is also brought down by obnoxiously hyperactive editing and use of camera. More often than not, the animators went with a distracting Michael Bay 360° pan to convey information, and rapid cuts (and really ugly dissolves) call attention to themselves, never giving scenes a chance to breathe and develop naturally. The whole thing seems rushed, unsurprisingly so, considering what I noted before about its cheapness.

From what I’ve read, there are two short, straight-to-video sequels already set to be released right after Norm of the North hits theaters, which only confirms my belief that these are quickly and thoughtlessly made movies trying to generate a quick profit. I know they just want our money, but they could at least try to look like they care about the actual movie they’re about to put us through. | Nic Champion

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