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Feature Film

Every Single Movie Critic In North America Hated ‘Norm of the North’

The great animal cartoon pile-up of 2016 begins this weekend with the release of Norm of the North, the first of at least nine animated features this year that will feature animal leads.

But distributor Lionsgate, which also released the Oscar-nominated Aardman film Shaun the Sheep Movie, is experiencing the polar opposite reaction to Norm of the North, about a twerking polar bear who tries to save the Arctic from a Manhattan real estate developer.

Whereas Shaun had a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Norm of the North has a zero per cent rating. Incidentally, the film had a 3% rating on the site last night, but the review by The Globe and Mail’s Brad Wheeler, which was initially the sole positive review, was deemed to be more negative in nature.

It’s an inauspicious start for Los Angeles-headquartered Splash Entertainment (formerly Mike Young Productions), which launched its feature animation division with this dud. According to Deadline, Lionsgate spent over $13 million placing TV ads on networks such as Nick, ABC, E!, and Cartoon Network. The film’s budget was reportedly $18 million, though it’s unclear whether that figure wraps in Lionsgate’s marketing costs, or is Splash’s production budget alone. Either way, both parties spent far too much money pushing out this schlocky direct-to-video quality project into 2,300+ theaters.

But the sad reality about children’s animation is that the film’s quality (and critic’s opinions) don’t really matter. Shaun the Sheep, which was almost unanimously loved by critics, opened with a tepid $4 million weekend. Norm, which is despised by critics, is currently tracking in the $7-9 million range over the four-day Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.

Once the film’s ancillary markets, like home video, are factored into the equation, Norm stands a chance of being modestly profitable for all parties involved, and Splash might even have a direct-to-video franchise on its hands, which was its goal all along. Bottomline: producers produce what audiences are willing to pay for, and enough parents are willing to pay to expose their children to Norm of the North.

If you’re curious about what critics had to say about Norm, here’s a small sampling:

Geoff Berkshire/Variety: “With plot elements cobbled together from recent animated hits, the blandly executed pic might as well be titled Happy Minions of Madagascar’s Ice Age.…First-time feature helmer Trevor Wall worked with Splash on multiple TV productions (including Sabrina, Secrets of a Teenage Witch), and his visually unimaginative style falls in line with antic small-screen toons that keep the action moving at a breakneck pace to distract from paper thin storylines. That may work, barely, in increments of 15 minutes or less, but fails to engage over 90 minutes on the big screen.”

Katie Rife/A.V. Club: “Yes, this is a movie for children. But using that as a justification for lazy work, as if kids are inherently too dumb to know the difference, isn’t just condescending. In a post-Pixar world, where audiences have become accustomed to quality animated family films, it’s a waste of money.”

Jen Chaney/Washginton Post: “This much is clear: You and your kids could probably craft a richer, more exciting polar bear adventure using nothing but Klondike bar wrappers and the power of the imagination. That’s a power that is sadly missing from Norm of the North.

Glenn Kenny/New York Times: “Directed by Trevor Wall from a screenplay by three other mammals, Norm aspires to the second-rate smart-aleckyness that characterizes current DreamWorks animated fare but doesn’t even get within, um, swiping distance.…The title character of Norm of the North may be a bear, but the movie is a dog. Actually, that assessment is unfair to dogs — real, anthropomorphic and metaphorical.”

Devan Coggan/Entertainment Weekly: “The animation already looks dated, and it feels as lazy as the bland narrative, which finds Norm traveling to New York City to try stop construction on his home. Norm’s lemming sidekicks, the kind of cuddly, dialogue-free companions who function as blatant Minions ripoffs, feel like a metaphor for the entire movie: there to hopefully launch a franchise first and actually provide some comic relief second.”

Adam Graham/The Detroit News: “Shoddily animated, cheap looking and witless, Norm of the North is a third-rate clunker for the kiddies. This computer animated polar bear tale aims to impart a message to the next generation about the importance of preserving the Arctic. Good on that. But it does so in the dumbest way possible, illustrating man’s interference with the polar ice caps in a way that defies common sense, even for a children’s film.”

  • Joey Gallagher

    My favorite review comment is from Matt Prigge on where he comments on Foodfight favorably in comparison.

    “At best the one-liners barely qualify as such; at one point Norm tries to crack that his Arctic home “has no furniture but it has great air conditioning,” you can practically hear crickets programmed into the soundtrack. More often than not the dialogue merely has characters saying out loud what they’re doing: “I’ve got to stop them!” “Kill that bear!” It’s a blue print for a movie that has never been filled in, and it makes one long for something like “Foodfight!”, the inexplicably expensive and barely released toon boasting Charlie Sheen and corporate mascots that looks like it was designed on a 1997 Windows program by your technophobe grandfather. That at least gives you something to work with, whereas “Norm” barely deserves a pun write-off, like calling it “un-bear-able.””

  • WanderPony

    According to a lot of critics, even CHILDREN were bored by this movie.


  • Mal

    Well it’s not like every kids’ film these days has a fart joke in it, right?
    Cynically guffawing, Splash is, all the damned way to the bank. People will pay for anything to distract their jaded children.

  • SomeCallMeKash

    I wanna see an actual child say how bad this movie is. that would be so funny. This movie is my favorite punchline.

  • Just the Norm….

    Sad thing is, Norm’s got better marketing than Kung Fu Panda 3.

    • Trevor Cartmill-Endow

      What??? Really? and what’s the reason for that? explain.

    • Marc Hendry

      I don’t think they need as much for KFP3. They just need to go “here’s more of that thing you already like”, rather than trying to tempt the public into a new IP.

  • Do we really need to find out what critics said about this film?! The commercials themselves were proof enough that this was going to be a terrible film to bare (no pun intended).

    • Mashed Potato

      As Adam Savage said, “the difference between science and screwing around, is writing it down”.

      Without quantifiable written opinions from the critics, the movie could still quietly exist in a bubble of blissful ignorance and continue to sucker in those who’re none-the-wiser. Think of all the money not wasted on this tripe.

    • Nathan Arce

      … ironically, the correct spelling of bear in this context is the same as that of the animal. It would’ve been even more of a pun if you had spelled it right.

    • Nathan Arce

      … ironically, the correct spelling of bear in this context is the same as that of the animal. It would’ve been even more of a pun if you had spelled it right.

  • Elsi Pote

    Based on the numbers they are pulling. I’d dare to say all this bad juju against Norm of the North is nothing but a conspiracy against Rob Schneider’s comeback.

  • R.

    0%? Can’t say I find that surprising…!

  • Landon Kemp

    Who wants to bet it will actually underperform worse than expected this weekend?

    Seriously, though, I feel parents shouldn’t be showing their kids third-rate garbage like this. If they actually pay money to show their kids a film like this that lacks any imagination and effort, they don’t deserve to reproduce. Sorry if that sounds brutal, but it’s true.

  • Slim Cognito

    You know you’ve fucked up when (according to the reviews I’ve seen) even the kids in the audience hate your pathetic excuse for a “movie.” This is pretty insulting honestly. I can’t believe this even got a theatrical release.

  • Renard N. Bansale

    What a garbage film. 1 out of 5 stars

    • I’m surprised you even gave it a star…..for trying? lol

      • Trevor Cartmill-Endow

        I’m surprised it’s even hitting in theaters!

  • The_Purple_People_Eater

    It had better (more) advertising.

    • Callum

      In the UK, I have not seen a single advert anywhere for Norm, even though it’s out here soon.

      • Malik

        Yeah ive seen nothing about this film. Shaun the Sheep was massively pushed here, guess the humour was more aimed towards the UK sensabilties!

    • Dave 52

      Oh I am HIGHLY aware that this had better marketing.

  • Dave 52

    I am one of those “individuals” that stand by that. Even after witnessing this piece of garbage I still stand by that. You should stilll never judge a film by it’s trailer or commercials, keep an open mind, and see it in it’s entirety because either it’s a good film with bad marketing and the trailers aren’t just doing it justice or the film even if it doesn’t look good it still might have some good things in it. There is always the possibility you could be plesantly surprised with the film or things in the film. I went to see Pixels and while the film was bad it definitely did have some things that I liked, the same thing goes for TMNT (2014). Too bad unlike those films this film had NOTHING THAT I LIKED.

    • Keepin’ an open mind is not bad advice. Too bad I don’t have an open wallet to match that advice and mindset.

      For anyone to have to pay more than $7-10 to see a movie, it had better perform. That’s why marketing is so crucial for films to at least get the interest for the viewers to want to see it, and the commercials for this film did not deliver. If money was not an object, I wouldn’t have to test the waters harder when it comes to watching films in theaters. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and I’d rather take my chances with something that at least convinced me it would be worth the watch. And this film has none of that, and it seems my instincts were right for this one.

      • Netko

        It’s not just about the money, though of course going to see these movies helps getting more of them made and if more people recognized them for what they are, maybe they wouldn’t go watch them. The makers of this really couldn’t give a crap if anyone hated the movie as long as they tricked you into giving them your money. But aside from that, there’s also time and interest. I can’t afford to sit on my ass 24/7 watching every single movie that comes out, especially those that are screaming their horribleness at me, nor do I have the nerves to anymore. I’m not a kid to whom repetitive, overdone schlock is all new and fun. I’m tired of it and it’s offensive to me in its laziness. I am neither going to support it with my money, nor give it the benefit of my time and attention. Horrible movies like this are obvious from a mile away and aside from lack of experience and low standards for entertainment, you have no reason to give them a chance. I don’t owe a single thing to crappy cartoons. Not a thing. You’re the one who needs to earn my attention, not vice versa, and there’s 0 reasons why I’d go watch a movie that looks and certainly is lazy over something that actually looks like some effort was put into it. Even on some off chance that rubbish like this ends up a masterpiece, I’ll hear about it.

    • Nathan Arce

      Dave… you’re saying you can’t trust 36 professional reviews that all say it’s bad? The reviewers are the only ones that have a moral duty to actually watch the movie before declaring it bad.

    • Nathan Arce

      Dave… you’re saying you can’t trust 36 professional reviews that all say it’s bad? The reviewers are the only ones that have a moral duty to actually watch the movie before declaring it bad.

  • Jimmy McKee

    Splash turned down Geronimo Stilton for this?
    That’s it! It’s time for us to issue a boycott on EVERYTHING Splash Entertainment

    • well thy also made code lyoko but then they just brain-farted, got into some legal trouble with one of their subsidiaries, got their assets bought out by ellipsanime and then re branded TO THIS GARBAGE

  • Dustin Koski

    That’s domestically. I bet Shaun did way better overseas than this is going to do:

  • That’s even worse than I expected it to me. Though, I would give my thoughts and questions.
    First I didn’t see the film. I wonder how it ended (I don’t care about spoils for this one)?
    It only has less than 35 reviews so because of that it’s not THAT surprising. But still kinda sad.
    Also remember, RT isn’t a fact sheet and critics are not ‘special’. I prefer “everyone’s a critic”. Especially if one ‘critic’ is like “I find some part hard to watch, 1/5”.


    I don’t think EVERY movie needs to be just like Pixar in order for it to be good. Though I’m curious if there is any good points against the current of the film?

    I usually am a defender but at the same time I look for any fair points whether positive or negative.
    I do think bringing out intention is never a good point to “improve” and I am against the “cult of originality” because creativity is about mixing things and seeing new results at the end.

    That’s why some films to me are underrated (e.g. Alpha and Omega) because some people can spread biases due to some personal preferences. I mean I see the quality fine as it is, especially for new people or for other reasons for one so far.

    For this film (NotN), again I see it was really hated. I wonder ‘how bad’ it was? It can’t be worse than that one film right?

    Can I see some good examples?

    • KLA

      This is true not every movie has to be Pixar. I personally think Hotel Transylvania & its sequel got a bad rap. They both are clearly kids’ movies, but they keep the cringeworthiness to a minimum (somethings are just noticeable but also standard trappings). However, the slapstick hunor is solid & there’s still a few good moments. There is also extra little details in the animation that shows they put in the effort. The combination of the Pixar effect & Adam Sandler effect unfortunately lowered the ratings.

      I also watch a lot of animated movies, and in the majority of them I saw the Norm of the North trailer (it was always the same ond). The animation looked like something you would find on NickToons in the early morning. The humor looked like poor slapstick & fart jokes. And not once did they ever tell you the voices. The trailer was just one big warning not to see it unless you wanted to use it as the equivalent of dangling keys in front of an infant.

  • James STanley

    I don’t see how it grossing more than “Shaun the Sheep” is that big a deal,i mean 7-9 million dollars is practically a pinheads worth of money when your take into consideration the hefty gross amounts for other animated films. Home video releases wont save it either, especially if it has to compete with more well-know (and better received) releases.

    • Metlow Rovenstein

      The budget is $18 million, so while its box office may be small compared to those of others, Splash and Lionsgate could be able to gain a profit, sadly, if the box office goes at this rate.

      • James STanley

        Oh well, even if does turn a profit, it probably wont be remeberd a couple of years down the line.

        • Metlow Rovenstein

          That’s true.

  • Some Guy

    “a twerking polar bear who tries to save the Arctic from a Manhattan real estate developer”… say no more, the film is BS from start to finish. Nothing need else be said.

  • basically before all of moonscoop’s/mike young productions’/other names’ assets were bought out by ellipsanime and before they were re branded as splash entertainment they were the people who made code lyoko (i’m still wondering how they ended up like this) but now……. THIS

  • slipperysnagglefoot

    This was expected.

  • Ah jeesh! 4 million??! I never got around to it but I’m totally renting Shawn the Sheep tonight. If an article on this dreck of a film is the thing that finally gets me to see what I hear is a great film, then there’s at least one positive in Norm’s corner. Even if it’s mainly spite based.

  • ea

    Why the outrage? It’s just a mediocre animated movie for kids, not worse than the stuff Video Brinquedo or Dingo Pictures churn out.

    • KLA

      Because we’re used to animated movies actually putting effort & respecting its audience.

  • Solar Flash

    Ok, this is just TOO funny. I knew this film was going to be terrible from the start

  • mechasus

    “the great animal cartoon pile-up of 2016”
    Would you call it a “furpile”?

    “polar opposite”

    For a January film, it’s foolish to expect much better.

    • BlueBoomPony


  • Bryan

    I get it now

  • Trevor Cartmill-Endow

    I HATE nock offs I couldn’t believe I saw this for theaters I thought it was only a Netflix sort of thing but no… Feel sorry kids that have to find these types of movies and think there a hit and it seems very cliche too. Those gophers are obviously stolen from Bolt and then I thought the character design for the polar bear seemed fine and I did like it a bit but reminded me of Madacascar or something too much even the plot was a mix of it along with a slice of happy feet. Im an animator and I bet I could create my own movie a thousand times way better than this all by myself and thats no lie. Oh yea don’t forget those moose are from Disneys Brother bear :/

  • Trevor Cartmill-Endow

    I actually thought Nutjob was the best knock off iv’e ever seen. I loved that one. But Only that one so far.

  • Wow! I knew this looked bad.

  • You probably have. I’ve talked to him before.

  • Jonathan

    Production is lacking and plot is thin, but I wanted to get my kids out of the house and they, along with the rest of the theater of kids, seemed to enjoy it. So I find all the adult hate amusing. Cheer up its not worth being so negative, it’s a kids movie and not the worst thing ever as it’s being portrayed.

    • KLA

      Compare the attention to detail between this and Hotel Transylvania 2. One takes the time to animate little extra bits that are humorous and still relevant to the story. The other doesn’t even take the time to animate parents being scared for their daughter when she walks up to a freakin’ polar bear.

      If I had kids and had to pay 30-50 minimum (asuming concessions), I would want to take my kids to a movie that didn’t make me feel like the CIA was using enhanced interrogation.

      There’s a reason Disney’s animation is still popular, and it’s because most of their movie hold up when we’re well into adulthood. The truth is, we’ve actually been getting quality animation since 1937, then tv cartoons changed our view of it until Disney in the late 80’s/early 90’s & Pixar in the Mid 90’s helped animation gain better recognition once again.

      To excuse this piece of trash because “It’s for kids” does a disservicd to the industry, the adult moviegoers dragged to see it, and worst of all, the kids themselves. It says they’re too stupid to know what makes a good movie. That creatirs of these movies don’t respect them. There are plenty of movies & tv shows that skew toward young kids but there is actual effort put into it. This is why there is hate. I don’t care that it’s not for me. I care that if I had kids, I would have to pay to let them see one of the worst movies ever put on the big screen. I want them to watch movies that at least have some effort put into them. Most of all, I want them to see movies that have respect for them. That is why there is adult hate. This movie respects no audience member whatsoever.

  • Jonathan

    Production is lacking and plot is thin, but I wanted to get my kids out of the house and they, along with the rest of the theater of kids, seemed to enjoy it. So I find all the adult hate amusing. Cheer up its not worth being so negative, it’s a kids movie and not the worst thing ever as it’s being portrayed.

  • Tom Hignite

    I understand your frustration in the Shawn The Sheep vs Norm Of The North dynamic. This however is the most interesting equation for all artists to ponder as it makes you think. What is more important to a movies success. A critical/ story/art success or a box office/ profitable/ money success? Shaw did about 4 million on its opening days. Norm did about 9.3 million on its opening days. Therefore the commercial critical success belongs to Shawn but in the realm of commercial box office success, Norm is the clear winner.
    The even bigger ” mind blower” is that if you go to the level of measuring success by which movies earn enough money to pay for the costs it took to make/advertise the movie, ( it is hard to say this but…) Norm WILL very likely earn enough dollars to more than pay for the movie. Movies like Pixar’s Good Dinosaur and Blue Sky’s Peanuts ( not to mention DreamWorks Turbo, Shermanand Peabody, etc) will likely NOT earn enough to pay even the cost of production/advertising. In this scope of measure, Norm Of The North is more successful than those mighty movies.
    This is reminecent of 2010’s LionsGate Alpha and Omega. It received a lowly 15% Rotten Tomatoes critic rating. It has spawned numerous direct to DVD successes as well.
    So you see, depending solely on point of view, the headline of this article could have read, ” No Critic In The County Liked Norm, Yet Audiences Make Norm A Solid Success”…or not.

  • Chicken McPhee

    You’ve never seen a great movie with a crap trailer?

    • Netko

      Frankly? No.
      I’ve seen great movies with mediocre trailers. For example I thought Guardians of the Galaxy would be forgettable and boy was I wrong. But I don’t remember ever seeing a trailer that made me think the movie was going to be utter rubbish and it turned out good.
      I’ve seen plenty of great trailers though that resulted in terrible movies.

      • Chicken McPhee

        Well, Star Wars had a godawful trailer. So did Wonderboys, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Hellboy….there’s a bunch of movies with really bad trailers.

  • James

    I have been in the industry for a few years and what I am more offended by is the lack of support in the animation world. Yes this film had a horrible story but it was not the worst thing I have ever seen. It’s a shame as artist we find it “funny” to degrade animation films like this. The people saying “I could have made a better movie” are the most deluded people and that makes me laugh! Those must be the students who *think* this is a easy ride. Or the out of work animation guy who has been out of work for so long they “forgot” how this works. They have no clue the fights that happen with the “suits”. People need to get a grip and grow up. Lesson here is to never bite the hand that feeds you and understand that there is more to it than what you see. I have been witness to many of good intentions gone wrong because of producers. The comments about any animated movies like these ones that seem to find joy from others downfall are disgusting. I am ashamed to be in the same industry as some of the gleeful morons who can’t wait to jump all over the industry they are trying to be apart of.

    • KLA

      I for one do not take glee in this. I feel sorry for the animators & the creative team as a whole if there was indeed studio interference. It pisses me off in general that companies try to make a quick buck instead of letting writers & animators do their job.

    • JodyMorgan

      I’d agree that there’s too much of an emphasis nowadays on gleefully cruel attacks on any movie/episode/book/etc. that isn’t good. At times it seems that people are competing to see who can make the funniest, most cutting putdown; even when what’s being attacked is genuinely bad, that gets tiresome quickly.

      Having said that, though, I absolutely do not believe there’s an obligation to support a bad movie or TV show just because it’s animated. The ubiquity of such by-the-numbers, cash-grab productions definitely contributes the common public image of animation as just kids’ stuff. Even worse is the conviction that children’s entertainment doesn’t need to actually be good, so long as it just keeps the rugrats happy while they’re watching it. If adults want to watch vapid time-fillers like Grown Ups, that’s fine (I’ve got more than a few DVDs I would put in that category, to be honest), but we really ought to be making an effort to make entertainment for kids that is actually good. I feel sorry for the animators who labored to make this the best movie that they could, but that’s the extent of my sympathy for the people behind this movie.

  • BlueBoomPony

    Ok I know it’s a kids film but how does a real estate developer even get rights to the Arctic? And is floating ice actually real estate?

  • Mr. James

    I’ll give my 2 cents as a parent of a 4 1/2 year old son who had some major cabin fever at our house on Saturday.

    When ads for this piece of crap had been running all week on multiple platforms that he views he invariably stated that we should “go see that!!” I wanted nothing to do with shelling out good money for a movie that I knew had horrible reviews and would probably put me to sleep. HOWEVER, when Mi Mi and PaPa heard he wanted to go see it they took it upon themselves to volunteer to take him. They are not the target audience, nor do they care one bit what’s on a movie screen, opting more to just enjoy some theatre popcorn and watch their grandson have a good time. I had no problem bundling his butt up and letting them spend the money to take him to see this. He sat through the whole thing and thought it was, “funny and good”.

    That’s not a stellar review but it’s not a bad one coming from a 4 1/2 year old.

    I think it’s the same reason we got Hot Tub Time Machine 2 as adults. It’s throwing money away to go see it sure, but in the end the popcorn, the atmosphere, and the fun of sitting with friends and family and enjoying the same bad movie definitely has to have some merit, right?

    • KLA

      I think I would have taken him to The Revenant instead. J/K

  • Tom Hignite

    Congrats to Norm! The film is reported to have made enough money by the middle of last week to break even. Placing the critical success aspect aside, very few animated movies can claim to have raced to break-even in under a weeks time. Norm has yet to have its wide release into any of the major overseas markets but will roll-out in major markets such as Germany, Russia, France, the U.K. , China and the like, between spring and December 2016.
    In comparison, animated films with higher critical praise such as Peanuts and The Good Dinosaur have yet to hit their break-even points. Some are yet $100,000,000 in the hole!

  • Tom Hignite

    Variety announced today that a deal has been struck for a Norm is set for a China this April.