Norm of the North (2016)

dir. Trevor Wall

There’s a lot of really obvious stuff to despise about Norm of the North, a film about the eponymous polar bear’s wacky adventures in the course of finding his true self. There’s the lazy animation, in which characters’ textures often look stiff and rubbery, and the same boring, flailing polar bear dance sequence is repeated no fewer than five times. There’s the grating voice acting, which granted isn’t a surprise when the main character is played by Rob Schneider. There’s the stupid puerile jokes, which revolve around farting and pissing way, way, way more than even the most idiotic kids’ films usually do. There’s the uncomfortable stereotypes, including a cackling supervillain who seems to embody Chinese tropes for no discernible reason. All of these are very, very good reasons to despite Norm of the North, but to add insult to injury, even the barest bones of the film’s plot manage to make no sense. It should be easy to do a coming-of-age children’s story about a polar bear, no matter how generic or clichéd, but Norm of the North doesn’t even muster up a film that makes sense. Does Norm hate humans or like them? Are polar bears’ language and English always mutually intelligible or only sometimes? Do polar bears need to become more like humans, or less like them? Also, what is the point of doing an obvious fake-out about Norm’s mentor-grandpa dying, twice? It’s a genuine struggle to understand what’s going on in this film most of the time, which fundamentally means there is not a single remnant of a saving grace in the entire thing.

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