. Director – Trevor Wall, Screenplay – Daniel R. Altiere, Steven M. Altiere & Malcolm T. Goldman, Producers – Nicolas Atlan, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott, Ken Katsumoto, Steve Rosen, Liz Young & Mike Young, Music – Stephen McKeon. Production Company – Lionsgate/Splash Entertainment/Assemblage Entertainment/Telegael
Rob Schneider (Norm), Heather Graham (Vera Brightley), Ken Jeong (Mr Greene), Bill Nighy (Socrates), Maya Kay (Olympia Brightley), Colm Meaney (Grandfather), Michael McElhatton (Laurence), Loretta Devine (Tamecia), Gabriel Iglesias (Stan/Pablo), Salome Jens (Councilwoman Klubeck), Kate Higgins (Elizabeth), Charlie Adler (Forebear)
In the Arctic, the polar bear Norm is useless as a hunter but does have the unique ability to speak human languages. He is puzzled by the appearance of a building on the icepack and then comes across a group of people shooting a commercial. After learning that the commercial is being made to sell condos to be built in the area, he contrives to sabotage the shoot. However, PR person Vera Brightley gets phone camera footage of him attacking and Mr Greene, the head of the company building the condos, decides he will use a polar bear to sell the idea to the public. Norm realises that the only way for him to save his home is to go to New York and become part of the commercial. He and three lemmings smuggle inside the condo set as it is airlifted back to New York. Norm then attends the audition for the role of the bear where he is thought to be an actor in a suit and gets the part over the other human actors. As Greene sets about exploiting Norm, Norm tries to find a way to turn the commercial around to a public appeal to save the Arctic.
Norm of the North is another entrant in the hotly contested stakes for the lucrative animation box-office dollar. It was a debut feature for Canadian animator Trevor Wall, made by consortium of international companies. The film was originally intended for direct-to-dvd release but the decision was made to send it out theatrically. Upon release, it promptly disappeared without trace creating a record for the lowest gross for an animated film on its opening weekend.
A large part of the reason for its flopping is that Norm of the North is inferior animation and family entertainment. It feels like it has been made less because the creative personnel had a vision they were following and more by a committee working to a constructor set of themes and ideas lifted from other animated hits of recent. The entire film feels like it is trying to copy Happy Feet (2006) – aside from the central theme of the Arctic animals trying to preserve their habitat, the animals here have learned to dance – Norm has even discovered an ability to twerk! The various slapstick set-pieces with Norm and the others skating at high-speed around the icepack and New York feel like they have been copied from the inanely kinetic ones that appear in Blue Sky Studios’ films. The lemmings that accompany Norm feel like an attempt to copy the penguins of Madagascar (2005) and sequels.
The animation is cut-price CGI – in keeping with the film’s made-for-dvd origins, it looks as though the filmmakers tried to get there without taking the time to render backgrounds and characters in substantial detail, which is what we have now become accustomed to expect from our animated film. The soundtrack is filled with a series of utterly forgettable pop and techno songs. The film has a pro-conservation theme that feels grafted on without much thought. On the plus side, you can guarantee that this is the only animated family entertainment film where you will hear talking animals referring to “The One Percent”.