Norm of the North (2 stars)

Norm of the North

Rob Schneider and Ken Jeong lend their voices to a substandard animation

With recent offerings from Pixar and Disney (Inside Out, Zootropolis) making the business of producing animated films look easy, Norm of the North provides a corrective by showing just how hard it can be. Trevor Wall’s film went through a troubled production and multiple rewrites but fails to cohere into anything remotely resembling a cross-generational crowd-pleaser.

Norm (voiced by Rob Schneider) is a genial polar bear who lives peacefully in the Arctic, but finds his home under threat from the sinister Mr Greene (Ken Jeong), who is planning to build houses in Norm’s backyard. Norm heads for New York City to stop Greene, passing himself off as a man in a bear suit amongst the costumed throng in Times Square, and somehow becoming a media personality whose views on environmental issues are widely sought. Greene attempts to manipulate Norm to his cynical ends but, with a little help from his new Manhattan friends, Norm sets out to foil Greene’s plans in dramatic style.

It’s hard to pick out what makes Norm’s quest most irritating – whether it’s his propensity to break into his signature dance, the Arctic Shake, or a muddled environmental message that’s constantly thwarted by awkward plotting. It’s unclear why nobody in New York recognises that Norm is a real bear, and his popularity is for reasons unexplained given his bland personality. Only Bill Nighy, as a bespectacled seabird called Socrates, makes anything of the comic potential, with Heather Graham, Colm Meaney and the rest of the decent cast drowned out by lame gags and general confusion.

Norm of the North doesn’t even make the grade in terms of animation, which is shoddy throughout. And with today’s best children’s films offering more wit and wisdom than many of those aimed at grown-ups, this substandard effort really does deserve to be frozen out of the family entertainment market.

General release from Fri 18 Mar.

Norm of the North

  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 30min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Trevor Wall
  • Cast: Rob Schneider, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham
  • UK release: 18 March 2016

Peaceful polar bear Norm (Schneider) has to leave the Arctic for New York City in order to thwart sinister property developer Mr Greene (Jeong). An incoherent, badly animated mess, with a decent cast wasted on lame gags and a plot that makes no sense.