“Norm of the North” wants to be an endearing tale of a polar bear who dares to be different and saves the Arctic from human intervention.
“Norm of the North” quickly devolves into a kids’ sketch comedy routine during which almost every joke involves lemmings that urinate several times their body weight on many things, lemmings that pass gas enough to create a hot tub, and lemmings that do just about every other bodily function that 5-year-old boys find hysterical – their parents, not so much.
Norm, voiced by Rob Schneider, always has been different. Unlike his fellow polar bears, he doesn’t want to hunt other animals – and he can talk to humans. That ability to communicate with humans is shared by his grandfather (Colm Meaney).
He and all the animals in the Arctic spend their days entertaining the tourists who arrive by cruise ship to see the unspoiled land.
When his grandfather mysteriously disappears, Norm stumbles upon a house that has appeared in the middle of the ice. A director is busy shooting a commercial for people to buy their own house in the Arctic just like it.
Norm and the lemmings, guided by the wise seagull Socrates (Bill Nighy), get to work destroying the director’s stuff. Conflict arises when we meet Vera (Heather Graham), the marketing executive who has to sell these homes in order to get a recommendation for the school she wants her genius daughter to attend. We want to root for Vera and her daughter, Olympia, but we also want to root for the Arctic and Norm.
Soon Norm and three lemmings are heading to New York to end the scheme of the evil Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong), who plans to get rich on these houses even if the Arctic is destroyed.
We watch as Norm as a character grows from the group entertainer to leader of the rebellion. Along the way, the humans, who believe that Norm is a human wearing a bear costume, become enchanted by Norm‘s message.
The environmental lesson is heavy-handed in parts and then almost forgotten in others. While kids might giggle at the lemmings, these fuzzballs that won’t go away don’t really add much.
The most redeeming and interesting character in “Norm of the North” is Olympia (Maya Kay), who wants to go to her dream school but not at the expense of the Arctic. She asserts that she can get into this school without Greene’s recommendation, because after all, she’s smart enough for that school.
Perhaps, that’s the best lesson of “Norm:” Hard work, not short cuts you know are wrong, can get you to your dream. We didn’t need 86 minutes of furry, urinating highjinks to teach that.
“Norm of the North”
Starring: Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, Colm Meaney, Bill Nighy
Rating: PG, mild rude humor and action.
Running time: 1 hours, 26 minutes
Theaters: Alamo Lakeline, AMC Barton Creek, Cinemark Cedar Park, Cinemark Hill Country Galleria, Cinemark Round Rock, Cinemark Southpark Meadows, Cinemark Stone Hill, Evo, Flix Brewhouse, Gateway, Metropolitan, Moviehouse and Eatery, Tinseltown Pflugerville, Westgate.