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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Norm of the North 2016 * * 1/2 Stars

Norm of the NorthDirector: Trevor Wall
Year: 2016
Rated PG
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong

Hello folks. It's the start of the new year again. That means a lowbrow, cartoon flick is being marketed badly, it's being released in January, and it's being taken down by critics like the Arizona Cardinals were taken down by the Carolina Panthers (a rare football reference). 2014 had this going on with The Nut Job and now here comes Norm of the North (my latest review). Seeing "Norm" today with my two nephews and my niece, I realized that these types of movies are critic proof when it comes to small children. I mean it's a cartoon just like anything else. You put the young tykes in their seats, give them some Skittles, and they stare straight at the screen, transfixed. So parents, just be patient. You can rightfully go see The Revenant next week (ha-ha).

Anyway, as an animated film made by a rookie director (Trevor Wall), Norm of the North is off-putting and unsavory without having an ounce of adult humor. And with a reference to Titanic, a couple of fart jokes, and an assumed PG rating, kids ages 4-8 will still dig it a lot more than their parental units.

Now for kicks-and-giggles, the visual effects in "Norm" are mostly decent with their inspiration obviously coming from any one of the Ice Age movies. It's the human characters however, that look a little old fashioned (I thought I was watching a Def Leppard music video circa 1992). Bottom line: I didn't dislike Norm of the North but a totally mixed review is necessary. When I saw the main trouper (a guileless polar bear voiced by comedian Rob Schneider) doing weird, gyrated dance moves to some cheesy, outdated Muzak, well I pretty much cringed like a mother.

Featuring the voiceover work of Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, and Bill Nighy, being heralded as the first feature-length, animation release from Splash Entertainment, and having its chief protagonist dress up in an outfit prompting him to take a stab at a gay joke (that's what I thought anyway), Norm of the North contains a dance-along-type ending that lets you know that it's strictly for the kiddies. The story begins by chronicling Arctic Circle/carnivorous bear, Norm (Rob Schneider). You see Norm is an Ursus maritimus that can't seem to hunt effectively. He can however, talk to humans and has an animalistic sense of empathy. When Norm gets word of a rich, real estate mogul (Jeong as Mr. Greene) trying to build condos in his Arctic territory, well he becomes distraught, gets on a plane to New York City, and tries to hatch a plan to stop said developer's money hungry plans. Look for a scene where young Norman eats live gills and fins at a sushi bar. Also, look away when his sidekicks (furry creatures called lemmings) urinate in a fish bowl and just about everywhere else. How unsanitary.

All in all, I found Norm of the North to be disposable (to an adult, what animated vehicle isn't) yet not awful. Ninety minutes go by and what's on screen is like every other kid toon, evaporating the moment you leave the theater. Actually, strike that. There is one exception. 1982's The Secret of NIMH is in my mind, four star stuff. Darn it though, they just don't make em' like they used to. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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