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Family Movie Review: Norm of the North (PG)

NormOfTheNorth ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG        Length: 86 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 6+. This children’s movie checks off all the usual boxes in terms of bathroom humor and fart jokes, pop culture references (the protagonist basically twerks, among other dance moves), some slapstick-y violence, and some language that may be a little crude for younger kids.

With its strangely adult plot about global warming and real estate development and its mediocre animation style, ‘Norm of the North’ is one to skip – take the kids to see practically anything else.

By Roxana Hadadi

“Norm of the North” was supposedly set to be direct-to-DVD before a studio executive decided at the last minute to give it a theatrical release, and that shows. The film’s trite plot, its stolen-from-other-movies character development, and its broad bathroom humor all seem more fitting to a weekend cable movie than a big-screen production. Between this and December’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip,” it has not been a good few months for children’s films.

In fact, “Norm of the North” and “The Road Chip” suffer from some of the same issues, most of which are so prevalent in this genre: an overreliance on gross and unnecessary bathroom humor; an onslaught of annoying characters who are meant to be as cute as the Minions; a basic plot that tries to dumb down adult topics for younger viewers who won’t really get it; and a shoehorned-in subplot about the importance of family. All of those elements are present in “Norm of the North,” and what they add up to is a hackneyed film that should bore parents and children alike.

The film focuses on Norm (voiced by Rob Schneider, of “Grown Ups”), a polar bear living in the Arctic Circle and in line to inherit the title “King of the North” from his grandfather. But Norm doesn’t really seem fit for royalty or authority: He would rather hang out with his seagull best friend Socrates (voiced by Bill Nighy, of “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) and play with seals instead of killing and eating them. What Norm does care about, though, is the environment that is his home, so when he sees a model house suddenly appear in the landscape, he knows something is amiss.

What to do? Track down the developer, travel to confront him, and save the Arctic, of course. So Norm gathers up his comrades, including a trio of lemmings who both resemble and act like those faux-French-speaking Minions of Gru’s from the “Despicable Me” franchise, and heads off to meet with Mr. Greene (voiced by Ken Jeong, of “Ride Along 2”), a ‘70s-style hippie whose outward appearance masks his all-consuming greed. He wants to move real estate development into the Arctic to make massive profits, and he doesn’t care about climate change. Building luxury condos and lining his pockets with money is all Mr. Greene cares about – and so whether Norm can stop Greene Homes in time becomes the crux of “Norm of the North.”

Along the way, though, there are various subplots that will grate on your nerves just as much as the main storyline, like how Norm is mistaken for an international celebrity because of his “Arctic Shake” dance, which is really just him twerking and shaking his behind. There are opportunities for everyone to dance to modern pop songs and plenty of times that Norm insists he’s “keeping it real,” but how the film gets into the mechanics of marketing and image management will tire kids. Will they really care about how Norm brands himself? Or are they just waiting for the next fart joke?

Children’s films don’t always have to be overly complex to make an impact; last fall’s “The Good Dinosaur” from Pixar wasn’t a great film, but it was pure in its storytelling about an unlikely friendship between a young dinosaur and a young human. “Norm of the North” doesn’t have any such positives. Its barrage of bathroom humor, nonsensical narrative, and a last-minute attempt to make the film about the importance of family combine to irritate far more than entertain.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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