Friday, April 15, 2016

Norm of the North Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
This winter’s coolest family comedy, Norm of the North, slides onto Digital HD March 29 and Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital HD) and DVD (plus Digital) April 19 from Lionsgate.  Life can be a real bear—just ask Norm, a polar bear with unusual talents and a heart as big as the great outdoors. When he hears that human homes are going to be built in his Arctic backyard, Norm comes to the rescue. With a team of ragtag lemmings at his side, Norm heads to the concrete jungle of New York City on a freewheeling, fun-filled mission to stop the madness and save the Arctic.Norm of the North features the voices of Rob Schneider (Grown Ups), Heather Graham (The Hangover franchise), Ken Jeong (The Hangover franchise), Colm Meaney (Con Air), Loretta Devine (TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy”), Gabriel Iglesias (Magic Mike), Michael McElhatton (HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually).
Film (3 out of 5 stars)
Norm of the North is directed by Trevor Wall, who has a background in television animation (Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch, Zevo-3, Hero: 108). Norm (voiced by Rob Schneider) is not your average polar bear. His grandfather (voiced by Colm Meany) is the King of the Arctic but Norm is not a natural hunter. Norm wonders who needs a bear that can’t hunt, one with “too much care and not enough scare.” He does share one trait with his grandfather, the ability to speak to the humans. When Norm asks what’s wrong with him, his grandfather promises him that nothing is wrong, in fact he’s very special. Grandpa says that an icon with a voice can be very powerful, and that Norm has been given a gift. Sometimes human tendencies take over and Norm likes to dance, perfecting his signature move, the Arctic Shake.

Tourists have always visited the arctic, Norm’s home. They take pictures and then they leave. The local animal life has always rationalized that the humans would never destroy something they love. When a model home of a human house appears, Norm is alarmed. His grandfather mysteriously disappeared a while back and Norm feels like he needs to step up and stop the humans. Developer Mr. Greene (voiced by Ken Jeong) is clearly out to make money, and doesn’t care what the cost is to the environment or the local animal life. 

His assistant Vera (voiced by Heather Graham) and her young daughter Olympia (voiced by Maya Kay) are much more socially conscious. They both put up with a lot from Mr. Greene hoping to get his alumni recommendation, securing a spot for Olympia in a private school for gifted children. When Norm learns that Mr. Greene is looking for an actor to play a polar bear, he thinks there is an opportunity to speak for the animals who can’t. He heads to New York City, accompanied by the loyal and durable little lemmings, to stop Mr. Greene and save the arctic.

Norm of the North is a cute film, and it was very well received by my eight year old son. The lemmings, who get squished and stepped on, sometimes at their request (to show their toughness), was definitely his favorite part. The voice actors are all well cast and bring much personality to their characters. Unlike many parents, I don’t need my family films to have a strong message. For me the entertainment value lessens when I feel like I’m being preached to. This film and its one liners (all put together for you in one of the special features) were trying too hard to drill the message into my child’s head. I don’t want my son pretending to be a polar bear, chanting “If humans come to our land and clap for us they can’t come to our land and crap on us.” Caring for the environment and animals is a good thing, but the message is a bit overdone here, for my taste.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Norm of the North is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate in 1080p high definition with a widescreen 7.85:1 ratio. This computer generated animation is exactly the kind of film you might see on a loop at your local electronics store showing how bright and crisp a film can look. Most important to me is the accuracy of the water and fur you’ll see in the film. When those items are off, I find it very distracting.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound delivers a full bodied experience for the audience. Whether a comedy or action sequence, dialogue is intelligible, consistent and consistent throughout the film. Even more important than accuracy of fur textures and water flow is the timing of the audio. Another children’s film I recently viewed was just a hair off, and it bothered me for the whole film. Norm of the North is perfectly timed and it makes it easy to forget that the polar bears don’t usually talk.
Extras (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Norm of the North’s Blu-ray disc contains a short, but fun (for kids) list of special features including:
  • Deleted Scenes – can be selected individually or with play all function
    • Flashback: Norm surprises a little girl\
    • Grandpa loses his temper
    • Socrates remembers Grandpa
    • Stan’s broken heart
    • Showtime with Stan
    • Confused tourists
    • Slithering Greene
    • Greene’s evil plan
    • Greene and The Polar Council celebration dance
  • Do the Arctic Shake - A karaoke style sing and dance along for kids
  • That’s Funny!:The movie’s best jokes and one liners – a compilation of memorable phrases and laughs.
  • The Arctic Challenge - Test your polar bear knowledge by answering true or false questions with your remote.
  • Also from Lionsgate - Trailers for Shaun the Sheep Movie, Beyond Beyond, Alpha and Omega: Family Vacation and Alpha and Omega: The Legend of the Sawtooth Cave
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
With the frequency that my son asks to watch The Lego Movie or anything from the Despicable Me franchise, I’m always looking for a new family film to add into the rotation. While he liked Norm of the North, he certainly didn’t love it. The lemmings certainly stole the show for him. The film had a very strong message, but it was a bit too in your face for me. Sometimes we just want to be entertained, we don’t always need to learn something or be better people after watching a film. Norm of the North contains a great cast with supporting players I didn’t get to mention in my review like Gabriel Iglesias, Loretta Devine, Michael McElhatton and Bill Nighy. The film is appropriate for elementary school aged children and is recommended for those looking for something new for family movie night.

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