Norm of the North Parent Review

Though youngsters might grasp the idea that protecting the earth is good, they may not understand the adult problems that dominate most of the story. Some scenes may be scary for the very young.

Overall C+

When a polar bear named Norm (voice of Rob Schneider) discovers that a land developing company plans to put human houses in his Arctic homeland, he heads to New York City to confront those responsible.

Violence B-
Sexual Content B+
Profanity A-
Substance Use B+

Norm of the North is rated PG for mild rude humor and action.

Movie Review

Believe it or not, Norm of the North has a few things in common with The Emperor’s New Groove. Both animations feature big, softhearted protagonists and scrawny, conniving antagonists, as well as plots that involve destroying traditional homelands. The two also include a scene where an evil villainess answers an unwelcomed wake-up call with the line, “This had better be good.” But whereas the Emperor’s script was so good it surpassed expectations, the bad writing in Norm can be described as disappointing at best.

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In this Arctic tale, Norm (voice of Rob Schneider) is a polar bear with the unusual talent of being able to speak human. While he and the other bears, caribou, seals, whales and lemmings, are used to putting on big dance numbers (yup, really) to entertain casual tourists that visit their winter wonderland, Norm becomes alarmed when he realizes some of the two-legged visitors are planning to turn his arctic wilderness into a vacation home destination. Determined to use his voice to prevent the arrival of mobile, luxury condos, the white hero and a trio of cute critters, stow away on a freighter headed to New York City.

Once in the Big Apple, Norm learns that Greene Homes, the company behind the urbanization push, is looking for a spokesperson to promote their product. So the bear pretends to be a human pretending to be a bear and auditions for the part. As anticipated, Norm and his “costume” are so convincing that Mr. Greene (voice of Ken Jeong) and his marketing manager Vera (Heather Graham) give him the part – and, he hopes, a chance to tell the public why they should leave the Arctic alone.

Of course things don’t work out quite as planned. And nor do the intentions of this screenplay. Its biggest fault is that this children’s film is all about adult problems. Although some youngsters might grasp the idea that protecting the world’s natural spaces is a good thing to do, how many of them are going to understand—let alone be entertained by—greedy land developer schemes, global environmental issues, corruption in the government, life/work balances and the unhealthy state of public school? And then there is the utter cartoon stupidity of how these themes are presented, along with depictions of scary villains, the use of tranquillizer guns, and scenes where animals bound by ropes are dropped into the ocean to drown. Perhaps some kids will chuckle at the potty humor – but I certainly didn’t.

So if you are looking for a heart-warming flick to share with your family, may I suggest you scrounge up a copy of The Emperor’s New Groove, because watching Norm of the North will likely leave you cold.

Directed by Trevor Wall. Starring Heather Graham, Bill Nighy, Ken Jeong. Running time: 86 minutes. Theatrical release January 15, 2016. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Norm of the North here.

Norm of the North Parents Guide

Why do you think adult issues are addressed in this children’s film? Have you seen other movies that do the same thing? If you were to write a script for youngsters, what themes would you explore? What would you do to make the ideas understandable and entertaining for your audience?

Why do you think Vera continues to work for Mr. Green, even when she doesn’t agree with what he is trying to do? In what ways does he manipulate her? What might Vera do to change her situation?

How does this polar bear try to use his popularity to draw attention to his cause? Does that happen in real life too? What do you think about the use of celebrity endorsements to further the goals of various products, charities or political opinions?