"Norm of the North" stars Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, and Bill Nighy. Released on January 15, 2016, the film is about a polar bear who travels to New York to save his Arctic home from a maniacal developer.
The film is directed by Trevor Wall and produced by Splash Entertainment, the animation company that worked on 2D and 3D animated kids shows such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, Bratz, and Hero: 108. If there's one thing that you should know about me, it's that I have my experiences of watching animated shows, specials, and films that are made for little kids. Yeah, that's right, I'm a grown man who watches cartoons during my spare time, so what? Anyway, I was quite skeptical about this film because the last time we had an animated film in January was 2015's Strange Magic, which I found to be quite entertaining, but also forgettable. I managed to see this film with my grandma since she's visiting for the weekend and I wanted to spend some time with her. In case you want to know, she enjoyed it. As for me, however, I just don't think it fits well as a theatrical film. Don't worry, this is not a rant like how most critics review their films, this is more like an analysis on how I feel towards the film.
The voice cast is filled with some noticeable actors and actresses and they pulled off some OK performances. Schneider voices Norm, a polar bear who feels out of place with his own kind, but he does have a knack of communicating with humans. I found Norm to be a decent main character because unlike the main character from The Nut Job back in 2014, he's friendly and helpful to others, which can be good for little kids to learn. Along his journey, he enlists the help of his friends, including the indestructible lemmings, and by indestructible, I mean immortal. I'm serious, you can stomp on these little critters a hundred times and they still turn out all right. They have no flipping bones in their puny little bodies! But back to the topic at hand, the lemmings looked cute, but they tried a little too hard to be like the minions from the Despicable Me films. It might not be a bad thing, but it does feel a bit forced at times, especially with how they used some childish potty humor. The animation in this film pales in comparison with the other animated films we had last year. You see, when you go to watch an animated film that was made by Disney, Pixar or even Dreamworks, you expect the animation to be dazzling and remarkable, as a way to tell a story or bring some of the most beloved characters to life. Norm of the North's animation, however, has little of that. Some of the animation looks a bit too cartoonish and weird like it was made as an animated television special that you would find on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. It's not entirely bad as it was handled OK, but I wouldn't say it's as grand as Inside Out or Minions. The story is very simple for the kids to follow along to, but the character depth and screenplay felt very weak and generic for some adults, along with some rushed pacing and off-putting transitions. On the plus side, it does have a nice environmental message. Another problem with this film is the villain itself, Mr. Greene, voiced by Ken Jeong. If you thought the villain from Alvin and the Chipmunks 4 was generic and dumb, just wait until you see him. The character is nothing more than a villainous wealthy developer who wants to build houses in the Arctic. I mean, seriously, who wants to live in a house in Antarctica? It's really cold there.
Overall, with its cartoonish and bland animation, weak character development, and a simple yet generic story, "Norm of the North" is an Arctic popsicle that fails to fit in with the Gods of Animation like Pixar or Dreamworks. I found some enjoyment in the film, but that's about it. I think the reason why I didn't like it is because it's a harmless film that is made for little kids, which is its target audience. I was outside of that target audience, but does that give me a reason to be so harsh on this film? Absolutely not. Sure, it's not a great film, but the fact that most critics are being unfair to a film that's made for little kids is just unbearable (no pun intended). I guess if I was at a younger age or if it was made only for television or Netflix, I would have liked it more than I do now as a young adult who looks at film in a critique point of view. I would consider this to be some sort of a breather for the young ones to see before we get to some of the other 2016 animated films that are filled with adult themes and violence. It might not work as a theatrical animated film, but if the kids are happy with it, then that's all that matters to me.