Norm of the North will certainly appeal to the two-to-five-year-old crowd (aka. the “too young to realize how terrible this movie is” demographic).
Norm (voiced by Rob Schneider) is an Arctic polar bear with several unique traits: he can’t hunt, he can speak to humans, and he dances a lot. When corporate marketing agent Vera (voiced by Heather Graham) shows up with real estate on the mind, Norm ventures to New York City to try and stop greedy humans from destroying his habitat. By infiltrating the Greene Corporation, headed by the evil, money hungry Mr. Greene (voiced by Ken Jeong), Norm takes the city by storm, only to find out how cruel the corporate world can really be.
There are many things that should have never happened during production of Trevor Wall’s Norm of the North. Primarily, it should never have been greenlit as a script worth turning into a film. The dialogue is awkward and unfunny while using annoying expositional sequences in order to move the plot forward, along with clichés in lieu of any actually humourous lines. It’s as if the writers forgot that they were writing for a visual medium. You know why people in movies don’t talk like people in real life? Because that would be boring. The writers possibly did not consider that.
Wall has some recognizable names providing voices for his family fare – it wouldn’t surprise me if they were recorded over the phone. You can almost hear the sweat pants and five o’clock shadow in Rob Schneider’s voice. Ken Jeong seems to be doing his best to spitefully mock how David Spade voices animated characters. Heather Graham, bless her, at least brings her charm. However, there’s no chemistry between any of the characters in Norm of the North. These actors have probably never been in the same room together, and whoever slapped together the audio track wanted you to know it.
Norm of the North is full of little surprises. Like: “Surprise! The plot points and characters that were developed within the first 20 minutes of the film aren’t at all relevant!”; “Surprise! Somebody is actually willing to widely release a film this bad!”; “Surprise! Your local cinema won’t refund your ticket cost!”. It’s not hard to think of the redeeming qualities of this movie, because just seeing it makes it clear that there aren’t any.
The flaws don’t end there. Most surprisingly, the quality of animation is noticeably below average. Dialogue is not properly synced up, to the point where one has to consider that last-minute line changes were made to the audio track, and not reanimated. Character and object interaction seems like it was animated by third-year animation students – it’s fine, but hardly professional quality. The clear attempt to mimic Disney’s style – right down to big-eyed, wide-faced character design and those oh-so-recognizable head movements – is both embarrassing and laughable.
Ultimately, Norm of the North is a derivative, uninspired propaganda piece on global warming. Certainly a worthy cause, but the execution makes it clear that nobody involved had any real feelings on the issue, hoping the trendy topic would sell tickets by itself. Maybe it’s naïve, but it’s comforting to assume that for most films released these days, there are at least a few people who are doing it for the love of the craft. With Norm of the North, however, there’s no way that anyone involved in this project looked at it with anything but dollar signs in their eyes.
Norm of the North is bad filmmaking. There is no evidence that the filmmakers have any understanding of proper characterization, plot development and structure. In an already over-saturated market of mediocrity, Norm of the North manages to stand out as a particularly terrible children’s animated feature.
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Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery