Directed by Trevor Wall, Starring Rob Schneider
* of 10
Rob Schneider was an untalented, out of work comedic actor. Until one day, Rob Schneider got offered a lot of money to lend his voice to an animated movie that has no reason to exist. Now he’s a polar bear, and he’s about to learn that making jokes isn’t always ice business. Rob Schneider is… Norm of the North. I shouldn’t have even bothered watching this. “Norm of the North” was supposed to be a direct-to-DVD animated film, but due to a combination of factors, particularly contractual distributor obligations and the late cancellation of a “Nut Job” sequel, it got upgraded to a January theatrical release. It has two confirmed sequels that will skip theaters for a DVD release. IMDB says that this movie took 6 years to make. I pity the men and women who went to an animation college and got a job animating a dancing polar bear for 6 years.
Of course, they don’t deserve too much pity if they animated this. The first and most obvious takeaway from this film is that the animation is painfully ugly. You can tell that it was made for $18M, an extremely cheap number for feature length animation. The lighting is basic and usually inconsistent. Shadows appear, but there’s no rhyme or reason to where they appear. The backgrounds are also basic. None of them have depth. Skies and the arctic are masses of blue and white, which lack any detail. The characters have little detail or texture. Norm himself doesn’t look terrible, per se-the model definitely is not good and it is noticeable that the black color of his nose becomes the same color as his fur in a few shots, but for the budget there is some movement in his fur. That faint praise applies to absolutely nothing else. The lemmings have no hair, the humans have no natural bends in their arms, and the hair of most humans was very obviously put on a body after the fact, without looking connected at all. Most animation isn’t even trying. I don’t demand realism for all character models, but a lot of the cartoonish designs just look disturbing. Characters that speak are either distressingly large or disgustingly small. The main villain especially is a grotesque figure. His hair looks like a hat that only covers the back of his head. His legs bend like curved stilts.
But bad animation is only half the battle. You can’t have an atrocious kid’s movie unless you match it with a dumb, unfunny script, and boy does “Norm of the North” have you covered there. As is the norm for awful kid’s movies these days, half of the jokes are bad puns and the other half are animals pissing and farting and doing things that animals don’t do. There’s a third type of joke that makes fun of Jersey Shore stereotypes, but they are only used with one character. The type of bad joke doesn’t matter, as they are all equally unfunny. The animals all get to make puns on their own names, so the not-talking lemmings get to fart everywhere. They pee on ice. They go to an office and pee in the plant. When asked if they’re house trained, Norm says that they have peed in houses. They pee on leather sofas, and then fart on a piano. None of this is funny. None of this will ever be funny. It requires no effort to write a fart into the script. It just shows that you have no respect for your target audience. By relying on farting and pissing, the writers prove that they think children are stupid and will buy anything put in front of them. Farts are not inherently funny. At the very least, there would have to be some kind of setup to pay off. That’s the very basic formula for a joke: an element is set up and then comes back in a different way to create a laugh. There isn’t a single set up for a joke in the entire movie. There are only carri-boo-yahs and dollar store Minions in the form of lemmings.
This might be a minor complaint, but I do need to bring up Norm’s signature dance, “The Arctic Shuffle”. It is not a dance. I get the idea behind this, I really do. The filmmakers want a distinctive element that can catch on with young kids, and if they can create a fun dance for the kids to do, it can become a pop culture item. However, there is no consistent “Arctic Shuffle”. There is no single series of dance moves that a child could replicate in order to dance like Norm. The same name is used to apply to many different dances with nothing in common.
It’s fitting to only start referencing the plot after this much complaining about other aspects, because the movie itself puts plot behind everything else, including the dance. It’s not a bad sentiment in a movie for a very young audience to promote helping out the environment. Unfortunately, it is handled without any subtlety. An evil businessman named Mr. Greene wants money, and will destroy the arctic to do it, trying to kill Norm and evading the law and investors through it all. Norm wants to save the arctic. That’s basically the extent of it. There are a few other characters, but non that directly affect the plot. Norm creates an overly complex plan that will go over the head of every kid in the audience in order to make investors unable to fulfill their contractual obligations to build arctic condos, and ends up performing an overly simple plan where he hits the condos getting shipped to the arctic until they drown. There are subplots along the way. Mr. Greene has an assistant who wants to send her kid into a special private school. This plot could have worked really well in a better movie. A mother who knows that her job is wrong but has to keep doing it for practical reasons in order to help her daughter is a very interesting idea with a character, but the characters themselves are written without any interest and these characters are extraneous to Norm’s quest.
“Norm of the North” is simply garbage, meant to appeal to the lowest of society and their children who aren’t educated enough to understand that this is a terrible movie with no redeeming values. It is insultingly stupid, and will poison the minds of any children who dare to watch it. This isn’t even worth looking at for free, just ignore its existence and hope that nothing this bad is made again.