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Norm of the North

by DAN LYBARGER Special to the Democrat-Gazette | January 15, 2016 at 2:23 a.m.
Norm (voice of Rob Schneider) is a twerking, pacifi st polar bear who winds up in New York in the computer-animated comedy Norm of the North.

If you spent 86 minutes crawling through a snowbank while clad only in a bathing suit, it would probably be a more rewarding experience than sitting through Norm of the North.

Perhaps I'm being too mean. It's a rare film that treats viewers to the sight of animated lemmings urinating into a fishbowl. Throughout Norm of the North, there's a sense of condescension and laziness. Director Trevor Wall seems to have approached this tale of a polar bear who can speak as if children are simply less-intelligent adults. Perhaps if they're tired, they won't mind that the lemmings who populate the supporting cast act just like Minions, only without being amusing in the process.

Norm of the North

72 Cast: Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, Bill Nighy, Colm Meaney, Loretta Devine, Michael McElhatton, Maya Kay, Gabriel Iglesias

Director: Trevor Wall

Rating: PG, for mild rude humor and action

Running time: 86 minutes

Probably the most irritating question is how the title character Norm (Rob Schneider) survives. Early in the film, we learn that he can't bring himself to kill seals for a living. This is an attempt to make him sympathetic. Polar bears don't seem that cuddly if they're predators.

In the process, this leaves viewers with nagging questions. Whereas the makers of Madagascar used a zoo-fed lion's diet to drive a plot, Wall and a legion of collaborators simply leave the mystery of Norm's appetite unanswered.

What there is of a story revolves around Norm's attempts to stop the ironically named real estate mogul Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong) from putting up a string of condos in the bear's Arctic homeland. Because Norm speaks in a voice that sounds like Schneider's anti-vaccine rants, he auditions for some commercials set up by Mr. Greene's public relations representative, Vera (Heather Graham).

If you can see some difficulties arising from this scheme, you've just managed to save yourself the admission price. The plot might not seem so paltry if there were interesting content to accompany it. While you might tire of hearing your youngsters singing along with "Let It Go" from Frozen for the 300th time, you'll get bored with watching Norm twerking as he's doing it.

You'll certainly feel the tedium after twerk No. 3.

Perhaps if Norm were shaking his posterior to something as catchy as the tunes in Frozen, his moves wouldn't look like what your drunken uncle does at family gatherings.

The voice cast is adequate, but it's disappointing how poorly Norm of the North uses the normally hilarious Jeong. While Greene has Steve Jobs' obsession with Eastern mysticism and meditation, there's nothing inherently funny about a ponytailed tycoon sitting in a lotus position.

That may be why the filmmakers added the lemmings. Normally, I'd be delighted to report that Norm of the North isn't in eye-gouging 3-D, but the humans and the animals in the movie have limited facial expressions and the voice actors have little material to work with, so closing your eyes doesn't help. Only Bill Nighy, as a wise bird named Socrates, leaves any sort of impression.

Believe me, I tried.

Mistaking repetition for substance, Norm of the North leaves a viewer as cold as the penguin tracks left over from Happy Feet.

MovieStyle on 01/15/2016

Print Headline: Norm of the North

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