Norm of the North: Half-Assed, Heavy Handed & Forgettable [Review]

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Finally a show without a lot of hype. I didn’t know much about Norm of the North going in and that was alright with me. It was an original film, not based on anything (that I know of). It wasn’t Ride Along 2, which also came out today which looked terrible. And it was an animated kids movie, which means lots of bright colors and silly jokes. What could possibly go wrong?


norm-of-the-north-teaser-posterDisplaced from their Arctic home, a polar bear named Norm and his three lemming friends wind up in New York City, where Norm becomes the mascot of a corporation he soon learns is tied to the fate of his homeland.

Norm-of-the-North-TrailerLet me tell you, my friend, there’s a lot that can go wrong. It seems obvious that, when producing this film, they realized that children’s movies are the most forgiving of all genres. It’s true – ask anyone who’s purchased any of the straight-to-DVD Barbie movies and they’ll tell you:  kids will watch absolutely anything. It doesn’t need to be well written, well paced, funny or make any sense. It just has to have high color saturation and a lot of movement and hopefully a few jokes.

At this point I feel like I’m being a little unfair. After all, I am definitely not the intended audience for this, after all. But I generally love kids shows and I’ve seen some good ones. And I’m not one of those people that needs adult humor to be carefully hidden through out the movie – a kids show can be good (for grown-ups too) on its own merits. I’ve been in theatres packed with kids when there’s a good one playing. It’s noisy. Kids aren’t shy about what they find funny and they aren’t talking about it during the show. This show was packed too, but it was silent (except for ONE apparently hilarious fart joke that brought down the house). I am here to tell you: one successful joke is not enough.

norm-of-the-north-trailer-Visually this movie was really good. There’s a rule in animation that all characters should be recognizable in sillhouette. Norm of the North did this rule one better – all characters were recognizable by their movement. That is, if you drew stickmen and then animated them in the way each character was animated, you’d be able to tell which character was which simply by the way they carried themselves. That was impressive.

There was an environmental message to this film and that didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, we need environmental messages because climate change needs to be addressed. But Norm of the North did the subject no favors. It didn’t show environmental impacts of our lifestyle (probably because drowning polar bears would make for a lousy kids show – fair enough) Instead it used the vague idea of environmentalism to drive the characters through an arbitrary series of plot points without needing to explain itself while at the same time having a good ‘message’.

splash-normofthenorth-1024x576So is this worth watching? Not really. I mean it’s not horrible, it’s just not good. I wouldn’t buy it. If you have kids you might end up with it anyway, and that’s fine. Just remember, Barbie: Spy Squad also comes out this spring and you could buy that first.

Norm of the North