Movies made for kids are usually a gambit for parents. A good portion of the time we pretty much know what we are getting into. A Pixar film will almost definitely satisfy us by being a good watch, as well as entertain the young ones. Dreamworks films, as of late, can land you in the middle of the road and Illumination, the guys behind the Despicable Me franchise, is mostly on the winning side except for last year’s Minions. Then there’s a complete surprise hit like The Lego Movie that makes you question everything. There’s such a wide spectrum of these films.
Lionsgate, not widely known for their animated films or at least anything successful, made the choice to switch their latest movie Norm of the North from a video on demand release to a full wide theatrical release. With the title character voiced by Rob Schneider, this was probably the first time any of his projects ever received any sort of boost. Now the questions were why, what were the intentions of that and, lastly, was it even worth it? Now that I have seen the animation blur in front of my eyes maybe I can shed some light on that last question.
Norm of the North is a series of bland messages dressed up as a kid’s movie. The story follows Norm, a polar bear in the arctic that is the laughing stock of his species and his entire homeland because of his ability to speak like a human and his love for dance. His father is the king of the land and his grandfather (Colm Meaney) believes that one day Norm will be as well. It should also be noted that Norm’s grandfather disappeared years ago, believed to have abandoned his community, although Norm and his friend Socrates, a seagull with eyeglasses and a British accent voiced by Bill Nighy, feel differently.
When a major corporation called Greene Homes comes to build condominiums, Norm decides to take it upon himself to infiltrate the company as their mascot to help stop the evil owner Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong ) from destroying his home. Along with three indestructible lemmings, the polar bear takes himself and his dancing routine to New York and quickly becomes a celebrity sensation, which he hopes to use to sway the public into saving the Arctic.
I can’t begin to fathom why Lionsgate thought this would do well in theatres. It truly is the worst animated film I have ever seen on the big screen. The animation is completely sub par, the storytelling is unoriginal, borrowing elements from every hit from the past twenty years and the plot points are constructed lazily, almost boring the audience. This also includes the little kids, like mine who almost checked out in the middle of the film. I know we’re not going to see anything successful involving Rob Schneider but this one is pretty unexcusable.
The film tries to have big and deep messages sprinkled throughout. The most focal moral to this story is the care for our polar ice caps and the destruction of animal habitats, which is a pretty noble cause. The other message is an attack on the “one percent” and big business, which is definitely shown by Mr. Greene and his shadowy corporation. The messages all fall completely flat on their faces when strained through the adult mind because it all feels like a shallow marketing ploy to put butts in seats and make money off of people’s consciences, which is actually a plot point in this film. It kind of wraps these filmmakers up in a swaddle of hypocrisy.
It’s crazy that a film studio would look at a finished product like this and deem it worthy of a mass release especially when Pixar, of all companies, stumbled badly in November with The Good Dinosaur, their lowest producing venture yet. Families are unwilling to fall for studio tricks and, least of all, for cheaply made garbage which is what Norm of the North is above everything else. It lacks any sort of personality, ingenuity or substance and is the lowest of the low common denominator in this genre. Just look for the only adult joke in this entire film and you’ll feel my argument. Another low dud for 2016, Norm of the North fully earns it’s rating of half a point out of five.