One of the more frustrating aspects of being a film critic is hearing people refer to all animated movies as “cartoons that are just for kids.” When animated movies are at their best, as in the case of 2015’s Inside Out, they are as affecting and artful as any live action movie.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies dreck like Norm of the North, which is an insult to kids and adults alike. A very poor man’s version of Happy Feet, the film follows polar bear Norm (Rob Schneider), who just can't seem to fit in with his friends and family. When he discovers that a group of humans is planning to build homes in the Arctic, thereby displacing the animals that live there, he sets out on a quest to stop them.
Director Trevor Wall and writers Daniel Altiere, Steven Altiere, and Malcolm T. Goldman bring out all the standard animated movie tricks to try to elicit any kind of reaction. These include cute sidekicks in the form of a trio of lemmings, an over-the-top villain, and jokes involving bodily functions.
What they forgot to bring was any kind of intelligence or heart. The story is inane from the very start and it only gets worse from there. The filmmakers seem to think that simply attaching a pseudo-environmental message to the film will make it work, when in reality it serves as a reminder of the crassness of the whole endeavor.
You might be able to give the filmmakers some credit for the animation itself, which is generally high quality. But it’s hard to separate the dreadful story from any of the visuals, and when they make the villain, Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong), act in ways that are completely unnatural from any of the other characters, they lose the benefit of the doubt.
Once again, a variety of well-known actors are used as voice talent for no good reason at all. Schneider, who at this point should be known as an anti-comedian, is joined by Jeong, Heather Graham, Bill Nighy, Colm Meaney, and Loretta Devine, none of whom improve the movie in the slightest.
For movie lovers, it should come as no surprise that a movie released in January is bad. But even by the standards of January movies, Norm of the North is atrocious and should be boycotted by moviegoers of all ages out of sheer principle.