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REVIEW: “Norm of the North”… Ugh

Just like in 2015, I’m making it a personal goal of mine to see every animated film released in 2016 as long as it’s playing in a theater I can access in/near San Francisco. January already has a handful of animated films in wide release or will be premiering by the end of the month. First up is Norm of the North… Ugh.

Where do I begin? I remember seeing the trailers for this back in November and my gut instinct was NO. My gut did not want to see a story of a bumbling polar bear go to New York and “twerk” his way in to saving his arctic home. Please note: he never twerked even though they tried to convince the audience it happened, and that it was funny. It didn’t and it wasn’t.

arting-normofthenorth03Essentially Norm is a polar bear that sucks at hunting but can magically communicate with humans and dance? Tourists keep showing up to the Arctic to awe at the wild life, but the other animals can also talk and have human tendencies too so.. why is Norm special? Oh, he’s not, besides talking in English.. just like the rest of the animals. They never really explain why these other animals display humanistic behaviors either. Anywho, it’s revealed that an evil corporation, Greene Homes, is making plans to build expensive condos.. in the arctic (that’s not a believable plot point!). Naturally Norm has to go to the company head quarters in NYC to save his family and friends (who potentially aren’t his friends because everyone treats him terribly).

Norm gets to New York and proceeds to make stale semi-topical jokes that he’d previously have no knowledge of. “No wonder they call it the concrete jungle!” NO, NORM. You have no frame of reference to make that commentary! Either way, Norm gets hired as the face of Greene Homes because they need an approval rating before investors will give money for these arctic condos. If that sounds tediously boring for an animated movie plot, it’s ’cause it is and the fidgety children in the audience agreed. Hold on, lets throw in a girl who happens to be an arctic enthusiast whose mom is trying to sell these condos to the 1% in to the mix. DRAMA. Also Norm’s missing grandfather how can also magically talk to humans was being held captive by Greene Homes. Confused yet? Well don’t worry ’cause Norm saves the day after rescuing his missing Grandfather (who can also talk to humans), falling in to the ocean and having a cliche heroic epiphany.

arting-normofthenorth02This film was pulled in so many different directions that it didn’t know if it wanted to take itself seriously or being slap stick comedy. Unfortunately this falls mostly to blame on a sloppy screenplay and lazy writing. The characters were flat, unappealing and poorly designed. Most characters felt wedged in as convenient story devices to move this train wreck of a film forward. I had zero attachment to any of them, and as a result I could care less if the realtor’s daughter, Olympia, got in to her private school or that Norm had 3 cubs with a random female polar bear friend that had two lines of dialogue.

arting-normofthenorth01

“It’s okay. Come out!” — “I think I just did.”

Norm of the North tried SO hard to be too many different things (Ice Age, Madagascar and Happy Feet with a splash of Minions) and as a result was less than nothing. They relied heavily on pee and fart jokes, falling down gags and when it tried to add adult humor it was just in poor taste (pretty sure Norm tried to make a gay joke when he came out in a sequined top for a dance number).

It’s movies like this that make me upset with some studios. They throw together a script hire celebrity voice actors then push out a cheap flick as a means to distract kids for an hour and a half. People in turn start to become accustomed to animated films being that just that: cheap distractions. I feel bad for the artists and animators that tried their best to make it an enjoyable film but when a story is flawed from the beginning there’s not much one can do to save it.

On the plus side, the studio should make back it’s $18 million budget and hopefully have better luck on their next film. It just breaks my heart that Norm the North‘s gross earnings ($14.9 million as of January 27th 2016) will most likely surpass Shaun the Sheep‘s US earnings ($19.4 million) by the time it leaves theaters. So just go watch Shaun the Sheep instead (which is an Oscar nominee by the way!).

But hey, at least it’s not Foodfight!

[Rating 1/5]
Rotten Tomatoes: 0% (2.7/10 average)

Release Date: January 15th 2016
Studio: Splash Entertainment
90 Minutes | Rated PG
Director: Trevor Hall
Writers: Daniel R. Altiere, Steven M. Altiere & Malcolm T. Goldman
Stars: Rob Schnieder, Heather Graham, & Ken Jeong


Have you seen Norm of the North? (Don’t.) What was the worst animated film you’ve ever seen? Comment below or tweet me @teriarchibbles!

ARTing is my new column all about animation, graphic novels, and anything in between that is art related. Regular posts coming on Wednesdays.

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