Norm of the North

January 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong
Directed by: Trevor Wall (debut)
Written by: Daniel Altiere (debut), Steven Altiere (debut) and Malcolm T. Goldman (debut)

If you’re one of the many parents who will get coerced into taking your little one(s) to watch “Norm of the North” (or even worse, buying it when it hits DVD so your indiscriminate child can watch it on a loop for a month before tiring of it), someone should give you an award for your endurance for pain. It’s only January, but “Norm of the North” just might end up being the worst animated film to come out of 2016.

Originally slated to get dumped straight to DVD, “Norm” stars actor Rob Schneider (“The Ridiculous Six”) as the title character, a hero polar bear who sets off to stop a developer (Ken Jeong) from building condos in the Arctic and pushing Norm and his fellow polar bears away from their habitat.

Even delivering a message on a child’s level about global warming and the importance of taking care of the environment is still a heavy handed one. Screenwriters Daniel and Steven Altiere never find a way to cater to youngsters whose only interest will probably be to cheer for the twerking polar bear shaking his ass to pop music. This is the type of kid film that dumbs down every element of the story. Who cares what cause Norm is fighting for as long as there are half a dozen fart jokes thrown in for good measure, right?

Aside from the weak environmental message, “Norm of the North” is amateurish animation. Developed by Splash Entertainment, a TV animation studio based in California, and Assemblage Entertainment, an animated studio based in Mumbai, India, “Norm” is rendered by animators with no imagination, sense of humor, or skill that could compete with the likes of Pixar, DreamWorks, Disney, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros., Laika, or any of the top animation companies working today. The characters’ designs are clunky and their personalities are highly annoying. What’s more annoying is this excuse for a script. Who the hell is stupid enough to move into a condo built in the Arctic, anyway? Hopefully everyone involved with “Norm of the North” will also find their way to the polar region and fall into an ice fishing hole before they realize how fast and cheap they can make a sequel.

The Hangover

June 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Todd Phillips (“Old School”)
Written by: Jon Lucas (“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”) and Scott Moore (“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”)

If you were to make an educated guess on which director could get close to recreating the type of comedy Judd Apatow has become famous for over the last four years, Todd Phillips’ name would not be near the top of that list. With popular albeit pointless comedies like “Road Trip,” “Old School,” and “Starsky & Hutch,” it’s never been Phillips’ forte to reach for anything that resembles cleverness. (Crotch pancakes, yes, witty dialogue between two main characters, not so much).

Maybe that’s why for his newest film, “The Hangover,” Phillips takes a step back and relinquishes his screenwriting duties to a couple of young scribes who also have a history of unimpressive comedies (“Rebound,” “Four Christmases,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past). Why take two lumps when you only have to take one, right?

The funny thing is, for whatever reason, the Phillips-Lucas-Moore combination works oddly well when Phillips isn’t pretending he’s still working with Will Ferrell and actually buys into the idea that less is always more. It doesn’t always happen in “The Hangover,” but the mostly unknown leading men keep the raunchy comedy from going into Tom Green-mode. And while it’s considered a dark comedy, it never crosses the line into the abyss like 1998’s “Very Bad Things,” another Las Vegas-based bachelor party movie.

As unbalanced as “The Hangover” is, actors Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis manage to keep the story grounded most of the time even when they’re running amuck in Sin City trying to find the friend they lost the night of his bachelor party.

When soon-to-be-groom Doug Billings (Justin Bartha) is no where to be found the morning after a drunken night in Las Vegas, his best friends Phil (Cooper) and Stu (Helms) and his awkward, grizzly-like future brother-in-law Alan (Galifianakis) attempt to sort though the clues left throughout their trashed suite and locate Doug before his wedding in two days.

Evidence of their wild night, however, only leads them to more questions. Why does the valet driver think they are police officers? Why is Stu married to a stripper (Heather Graham)? How the hell does former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson know who they are? It’s all very mysterious in a sort of silly way until the third act when the whole misadventure slowly wears out.

Nevertheless, there’s still a shockingly hilarious pay off just when you think “The Hangover” can’t dig itself out of its dark-comedy hole. Add to that a strong dynamic between the three main leads and Phillips has suprisingly given us his best work to date.