The Other Side of Animation 40: Norm of the North: THE WORST MOVIE OF 2016

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I had a multitude of ideas on how to open up this review of today’s film. I could have gone on a monologue about how you should never go to theaters in January unless it’s an Oscar-nominated film or a really good indie film, how Hollywood keeps greenlighting animated films that are obviously not up to DreamWorks, Pixar, Disney, Warner Bros, and even Sony Animation standards, because they think the movie-going audience is stupid, how Lionsgate keep shooting themselves in the foot, because they keep distributing badly animated films, how this makes Hollywood look worse, and you get my point. Norm of the North is a prime example of what is wrong with Hollywood. Directed by Trevor Hall as his first time directing a movie (You have my condolences), and created by Assemblage Entertainment, Splash Entertainment, and was distributed by the same studio that put out the Alpha & Omega series, Lionsgate. Do you know what Splash Entertainment has made? They are making more straight-to-video Alpha & Omega sequels.  And you know what Assemblage has made? They made some of the straight-to-dvd Swan Princess films. I know you should always give a movie a chance, but when the writing is on the wall, and the marketers know they have no way to conceal it, then there is no way to argue that this film is in anyway good. I feel badly for the actors involved in this, and even worse for the poor individuals who decided to make sure Norm of the North got its funding budget paid off. I mean, really people? I know sometimes you just need to get out of the house and go see a movie, but why didn’t you just go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens or something better during January until Kung Fu Panda 3 came out? So, if I haven’t made it clear enough, how bad is Norm of the North? Well, let’s find out.

Norm of the North stars a polar bear named Norm, voiced by Rob Schneider. He has the ability to somehow speak to humans. Norm sticks out from everyone, because he doesn’t kill seals, which does bring in the question of how has he survived this long without killing a seal. Anyway, a generic greedy rich individual named Mr. Greene, voiced by Ken Jeong, wants to make the arctic a livable human environment because, yeah, people really want to live in a frozen wasteland that’s incredibly dark at different times of the year, and have polar bears and freezing temperatures at every time of the day. It is up to Norm to get to New York City and try to stop Mr. Greene’s plans!

Oh boy, oh boy, where do I start with this film? First off, it has the quality and animation of a straight-to-bargain-bin DVD film. Heck, it was supposed to be a straight-to-DVD film in the first place, but some person who I hope is fired and ashamed of their decision now, thought they would get the ultimate amount of profit by putting it into theaters. Because, you know, if Lionsgate thought they would make money off this flaming pile of putrid waste, they would have released it during a month that wasn’t January. Heck, if people were patient enough, they could have seen Kung Fu Panda 3. I know it meant waiting another two weeks from Norm’s January 15th release to Kung Fu’s January 29th release, but screw it, it would have made sure that you didn’t waste your money on a film that looks horrible. Seriously, I can’t put it into words at how horrible this film looks. Its textures are low quality, the animation is jerky, the character designs are sloppy, some creatures look horrifying, and it doesn’t look movie theater-quality. Say what you will about some of the mediocre animated films that come out each year, like this year’s Ratchet & Clank, Angry Birds, or any of the bad DreamWorks films, at least they look movie quality. You remember last year’s Hotel Transylvania 2 and Minions? They might not be the best movies, but they look movie theater quality. Heck, Minions had some really good CGI, and that movie was a cynical cash-grab! The human designs in Norm of the North look like they were designed by first month animation students. They look just as good as those horrifying humans you see in The Hero of Color City. And yes, now that I have mentioned that film, I need to now review it. Nothing about Norm of the North is theater quality enough. Even the editing is just painful, with that cheap cross dissolve that ends each scene of the movie. There is no reason this film had to be in theaters. Seriously, Hollywood, if you can’t make a film look as good as something from Illumination or Pixar, then don’t put it in theaters, or else you look like money-grubbing fools.

So, what about the characters and story? Well, the characters are all forgettable and stupid. Like, seriously stupid. One girl just wants to run up and hug a polar bear cub, which would pretty much get her killed in real life, since you know, running up to a bear is a smart thing to do. Heck, the logic of the characters is so questionable, that it constantly punches holes into the story that is already pretty full of holes. For example, why does this obviously bad guy, Mr. Greene want to make condos in the arctic? Has he ever lived there? It’s a frozen wasteland, and making a living there is already brutal! Did he not see 30 Days of Night? It gets pretty dark there for a good chunk of the year. Oh, and it’s also in a place where there are bears! Yeah, because when I wake up with frostbite, the first thing I want to see is a bear outside my door. Also, how does Norm get to speak to humans? What made him want to start having human tendencies? Why does he want to be king of the arctic? Why is there even a plot about being the king of the arctic? Why does he not want to eat a seal, when in reality, he would have starved to death? How does no one even remotely know of a giant polar bear walking around New York? I mean, I know New York is its own zoo, full of large loud individuals, but come on! And did no one see the obviously bad guy moment happen in the 3rd act? Why is there a pointless love interest that gets, like, three lines in the entire movie? Did anyone try with this movie?

And really, that’s the biggest problem with this trainwreck, no one tried. No one put the effort into making a comprehensible story, or to make the characters worth investing into. I mean, there are so many plot points that are thrown in there because other films do them, without knowing how to execute them. I know this stuff gets brought up a lot when a film has similar/familiar elements that we have seen done hundreds of times, but we don’t care if they have been done hundreds of times, because they were executed well. None of the plot elements are done well here, and are just more glaring than ever. They just made this movie because the studios that made it needed a job, and Lionsgate, for one reason or another, wanted more animated films, because, you know, you want to follow up your critically acclaimed, Shaun the Sheep Movie with the worst animated film of 2016. Want to know how aggravating and hard this film was to watch? I paused at most six times to watch other shows and work on other articles. Yeah, watching Norm of the North was painfully tedious work. A movie shouldn’t be tough to sit through.

And before anyone says that I and so many others are being way too hard on this movie, there are stories of kids walking around and bored with the movie inside the movie theater. Yes, when kids for this supposedly ‘made for kids’ film are bored out of their wits, then that is a big problem. Just because a film is made for kids doesn’t mean you can’t hold a standard to it. I am so freaking sick and tired of this excuse, because there are so many great animated films coming out every year that destroy that notion. For example, let’s take a look at the films that came out here in the states that break the notion that kids films can’t have standards. You have Inside Out, When Marnie Was There, Zootopia, Big Hero 6, The Box Trolls, How to Train your Dragon 2, The Wind Rises, Wolf Children, Ernest & Celestine, Song of the Sea, Shaun the Sheep Movie, The Prophet, Boy and the World, and April and the Extraordinary World. These all have high standards in terms of stories, animation, characters, and they all make sure not to treat the audience like they’re stupid. You know, like how Norm of the North is. Every film, no matter who it’s made for, needs to be held to a high standard. You can’t just brush it off and be like “oh it’s a kid’s film, it can get a pass”. That’s just lazy and condescending, which results in lethargic animated films that only cater to the lowest common denominator like Norm of the North and The Wild Side.

Now then, with all this vile hatred for this movie, is there really one good element of the film? Well, as odd as it might sound, Rob Schneider and some of the other cast members are not the worst things about the movie. Sure, they aren’t great, but I can at least say they are trying with the mediocre material. Granted, I haven’t seen a film where Schneider was great all around, but still, I respect an actor that can at least try to make it work when the situation doesn’t really give you room to, you know, be good.

This is easily one of the most cynical, disgusting, spiteful, aggravating, and downright worst animated films that I have ever seen. Heck, I’ll one up that, it’s one of the worst animated films of all time, and I don’t say that lightly! You might think I’m saying that for comedic effect, but I’m not. Just come talk to me in real life, and I will show you how much I hate this movie. It might not be the number one worst movie of all time, but it’s easily in my top three. Even Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return and Cool World are not in the top five worst animated films I have ever seen. At least with those two films you can laugh at how horribly put-together, unintentionally creepy, and lazy Legends of Oz is, and how grating, but visually interesting Cool World is. Norm of the North has none of those factors. This is just a pure example, along with many other films, of why the Hollywood system is busted. What’s even sadder is that Lionsgate, the distributor, has not learned their lesson, since they have two more trainwrecks coming out next month and later this year with The Wild Side, and The Adventures of Panda Warrior! I think that whoever made this film get into more theaters than amazing films like April and the Extraordinary World, Boy and the Beast, and The Green Room needs to be fired, and then ridiculed for doing so! Avoid this animated film at all costs. Just don’t even think about purchasing it for a bad movie night. This movie just enrages me so much, that I need to go back to reviewing stuff I love. Here then, Norm of the North is out, and next time Castle of Cagliostro will be in. Thanks for reading. I pray to you that you do not watch this horrible movie, even as a bad movie night film, and see you all next time!

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

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