Movie Review: NORM OF THE NORTH (2016) Animation, Family

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norm_of_the_north_poster.jpgNORM OF THE NORTH (Normand du Nord) (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Trevor Wall

Review by Gilbert Seah

The first family film of 2016 proves to be not too bad a family outing but lacks the innovativeness of many primed animated features. Director Wall and his scriptwriters (five no less) play it safe. The result is a safe film – but nothing out of the ordinary.

Many of the characters in NORM OF THE NORTH is derived from other animated films. Norm, himself is a polar bear (Rob Schneider) who does not fit in the North pole. He is too kind to hunt and eat his fellow Arctic animals. But he has a gift. He can understand the human language (English to be particular). No reason is offered why. So when trouble arrives in the north in the form of Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong of THE HANGOVER films) who wants to destroy nature and build condos, it is up up to Norm to save the day. He travels to NYC with his troupe. His troupe consists of three lemmings, who utter gibberish, very similar to the minions of DESPICABLE ME.

The voice characterizations are again competent at most. Rob Schneider is sufficiently amicable as Norm. Of the recognizable talents, Bill Night as Socrate, the bird, Colm Meaney as the grandfather and Jeong as the villain stand out. But the villain is more goofy than mean, who eventually gets his comeuppance as deserved.

The film contains a few songs and a few dance numbers. Norm looks cute jiggling his polar white furred bum. Again, the dance is a milder form of HAPPY FEET, just as Norm is a very mild version of a clumsy SHREK. The human beings that meet Norm are females, which should delight the fairer sex of the audience. There is no violence at all and no foul language, though with just a little hint. These come mainly from the villain, Mr. Greene. There is also a noticeable lack of romantic interest in the film. But that would tend to slow an already slow-paced animated movie.

The sight of animals in a big city has also been done before in the MADAGASCAR films. The scene of Norm and the lemmings travelling by boat to America is too familiar and similar the sight of the ship sailing by the penguins in MADAGASCAR.
The message of saving the world (THE LEGO MOVIE, DESPICABLE ME) and its natural environment is also a well-worn one, though well intentioned.

The animation is competent enough. I cannot comment about the 3D effects, as the screening I attended was a 2-D version.

Overall, NORM OF THE NORTH is an ok piece. The sight of a fuzzy giant dancing around should surely amuse the kids in the audience. If only the humour was goofier and the script was more inventive to entertain the adults. But the film should attract the same audience that made ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS a hit at Christmas.

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