By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars) 

The months of January and February are usually not great months for cinema.  With the exception of the late wide releases of movies up for 2015 accolades, January and February serve as dumping grounds for films without the right season for theatrical release, or just plain mediocre releases that barely avoided the straight-to-video treatment.  Norm of the North falls under this second category.  This animated family movie, had it market tested better, probably would have received a prime release either in the summer or fall.  However, I’m guessing it didn’t test as well as hoped and the movie studio decided to cut its losses and release it during a time with minimal competition.  The studio made the right call.

Norm of the North stars Rob Schneider as the titular polar bear from the Arctic.  Norm is a mild mannered bear who isn’t particularly the most aggressive hunter in his family, but has an inexplicable ability to communicate with humans.  In recent years, Norm’s home has become a hot spot for tourist activity, which Norm and the other animals don’t mind.  However, with the increased popularity of the area, a greedy land developer named Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong) has massive plans to change the entire landscape of the area the animals call home.  In an attempt to save his home, Norm poses as Greene’s company mascot to sabotage the company’s plans.

Written by Steven M. Altiere, Daniel R. Altiere, Malcolm Goldman, and directed by Trevor Wall, Norm of the North will keep young children entertained, but will not have quite the same effect on their parents.  The colorful visuals will probably mystify the little ones, but doesn’t quite meet the impressive standards set by Disney, Pixar, or even Dreamworks.  The story isn’t all the exciting and somewhat predictable.  The jokes offer a mix of moderately amusing humor, silly pratfalls, overplayed fart jokes, and other redundant failed attempts at laughs.  Most of the characters are likable, although not fully developed.

The voice cast offers fine performances despite the limited material they have.  Rob Schneider has the proper, soft spoken timbre for a mild mannered and disarming polar bear.  Heather Graham stars as Vera, a conflicted employee of the Greene Corporation who wants to be rise up in the ranks, but has some ethical issues with her company and boss.  The film also features some exceptional, but limited voice work from actors Colm Meaney, Loretta Devine, Gabriel Iglesias, and Bill Nighy.

So the film does have a few positive aspects, but not enough for me to recommend spending top dollar to see it.  If the kids are desperately begging to see this movie, then my recommendation is to make this a matinee trip to the cinema.  If this movie miraculously flies below their impeccable radar, then Norm of the North would make for a more reasonable rental.

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