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Movie Review

‘Norm of the North’ is unbearable

Norm (voiced by Rob Schneider) and the Lemmings in “Norm of the North.” Lionsgate

This is what director Trevor Wall, his screenwriters, and everyone else responsible for the animated comedy “Norm of the North” think kids today want to see at the movies:

1. The pot-bellied polar bear of the title, voiced by Rob Schneider (qualified perhaps because of his performance in “The Animal”), who is incapable of hunting because he feels sorry for his prey (so how’d he get the pot belly?). Everyone in the multi-species community laughs at him, so he tries to win their approval by performing a bum-waggling dance called “The Arctic Shake” and, occasionally, twerking. Also unappreciated: Norm’s ability to speak “human,” i.e., English.


2. Norm’s trio of lemming pals — charmless, would-be “Minions” who can be relied on to urinate or fart inappropriately when the hilarity lags, which is always.

3. Norm’s seagull mentor Socrates (a role Bill Nighy will probably not put on his résumé), bespectacled with a zucchini-like beak and prone to bromides when he is not pooping on someone for pointed and comic effect.

4. Occasional “adult” references that should go over the kids’ heads but might amuse their long-suffering parents, such as when Norm is asked to “come out” of a dressing room after putting on a flamboyant outfit and he responds, “I feel like I just did!”

5. Visually creepy and grotesque characters; settings that look like a cross between Legoland Dubai and Brutalist architecture.

6. The requisite, tepidly progressive environmental message. In this film the threat to the Arctic comes not from such controversial sources as oil exploration or climate change, but gentrification. Only Norm (and his blink-or-you’ll-miss-her ursine love interest) sees the danger when Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong), a nefarious billionaire, starts building on their land.

This is when Norm’s gift for speaking human comes in handy. Aided by Vera (Heather Graham), Mr. Greene’s assistant with a conscience, and her scolding, activist daughter Olympia (Maya Kay), he plans to win Greene’s confidence by becoming a popular spokes-bear for his condo project, and then denouncing him. Better yet, denounce the cynics who pander such pabulum as entertainment for children.



Directed by Trevor Wall. Written by Malcolm T. Goldman, Steven M. Altiere, and Daniel R. Altiere. Starring Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Bill Nighy, Ken Jeong, Maya Kay. At Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs. 94 minutes. PG (mild rude humor and action).

Peter Keough can be reached at