'Norm of the North: Family Vacation' (2020) A Stockholm Syndrome Movie Review - ReelRundown - Entertainment
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'Norm of the North: Family Vacation' (2020) A Stockholm Syndrome Movie Review

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Have You Come For Answers Or To See Me Break?

Hello fellow readers. You’ve probably come here looking for answers on if Norm of the North 4: Family Vacation is worth checking out or possibly acceptable to screen for the viewing of children. Since I’m the only idiot on this website dumb enough to actually watch this movie willingly, I’m going to do my best reviewing this latest direct-to-video sequel to a depressing mental drain of a franchise. I apologize to the four people in the world who waited and scoured the internet for the last couple months in search of a review for Norm of the North 4… First of all, you need to re-evaluate your life. Secondly, this was released to the public on my birthday back in February and there was no way in hell I was watching Norm of the North 4 for my freaking birthday! I watched RoboCop for the millionth time instead. Because of course I need to squeeze in a RoboCop reference for every Norm of the North review. It’s practically tradition by now.

I'd give anything to see Robo shoot that damn bear in the back of the head...

I'd give anything to see Robo shoot that damn bear in the back of the head...

Is This What Stockholm Syndrome Feels Like?

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It’s been four whole years since Norm of the North was unleashed onto the masses. It’s a movie I remember despising the first time I watched it and about died the second time I was forced to see it. At the time I had kids to take care of and I sadly was not in charge of the entertainment that night… Anyways, I digress. The first Norm of the North was a very miserable experience that was packed to the gills with cynical pop culture references, fairly terrible animation, obnoxiously peppy voice acting, logic that would break a man and definitely did with me, a story that was ripping off so many familiar properties that I couldn’t keep track, and the dumbest of dumb/bottom of the barrel/most brain cell murdering/grossout piss and poop and puke and fart jokes that made me ponder if film had died that day. It didn’t. But it was still dreadful and I hated every solitary second I spent watching Norm of the North.

I hate this bear so much...

I hate this bear so much...

Then for a while, it seemed as though Norm of the North’s fate was rightfully buried. No one mentioned its existence, barely making a scratch at the box office as domestically it only earned $17 million. Which is pretty sad for a family flick coming out in January, a month where there is typically no competition for any type of family movie. The only exception from that particular month being Kung Fu Panda 3, but that came out two whole weeks after Norm of the North, so no excuse there. Everyone knew it was garbage, and for once, most parents declined putting their kids through such cheap schlock. For a couple years, the world was brighter and a much better place. There was of course still stupid sh*t under the guise of kids flicks, but recently I actually thought that family entertainment was thriving in a way I never thought possible before with exciting and clever films for the whole family to enjoy.

Then, unfortunately, some madman out there inquired to himself, “Wouldn’t it be marvelous if I made sequels to Norm of the North?! And even better, I’ll release two sequels within the very same year and then another one in the following!” No, this was not a marvelous idea. This is hell. A hell that for some reason I have ventured into four times now with installments to this damn franchise. The first sequel, Keys to the Kingdom, was pretty damn awful and with a narrative stitched together out of three or four different scripts written for a cheap ass TV show. The second sequel, King Sized Adventure, was still pretty bad yet surprisingly not as terrible as the first two. Both of which contained many similar problems with eye-rollingly miserable fart/piss/puke/poop jokes, random pop culture references that feel condescending to its audience, amateurish and creepy animation, and stories that would fail to leave much of an impression on any kid.

The decapitated head with a sombrero from 'Norm of the North 2'.

The decapitated head with a sombrero from 'Norm of the North 2'.

And the gun showdown in 'Norm of the North 3'.

And the gun showdown in 'Norm of the North 3'.

Although when I saw King Sized Adventure, something weird happened to me because I started finding positives about the movie. I know, I know. I was scared too. Hear me out! The animation actually wasn’t so bad that go around, at least not for a direct-to-video production. There was a tiny bit of thought and effort executed in terms of some of the animation, the visual effects, the storyboards, lighting, color, etc. As insane as it sounds, the filmmakers did TRY with Norm of the North 3 and I appreciated the efforts. Even the story is TRYING to replicate a three act structure. It wasn’t anything very good, but it was an improvement from the second movie simply being a string of television show episodes lazily forced together into one feature. So, even though the end result wasn’t all that good and still made for a miserable experience, my soul grasped tightly to those few positives to get me through my stint.

Here we are, less than a year later since the third entry and I find myself somehow clenching onto every single positive detail I could find in Norm of the North 4: Family Vacation as my mind attempts to block out every godawful pun, idiotic character decision, mind-boggling flawed logic, and clumsy line delivery it possibly can. Is this what Stockholm Syndrome feels like? As I’ve been held captive for so long by Norm of the North, is it possible that this cash-grabbing franchise has beaten me into submission and is slowly molding me into a follower of its cult… Am I part of the ‘Norm of the North Cult’ now? Is it bad? Is it good? Do I like it? Is there something wrong with me? Have I been drugged? Am being poisoned through my eyeballs? Am I changing into something or someone else? Who am I? Who the hell am I now?! Norm of the North is breaking me, it’s breaking me and making me into its disciple! Oh God, please, would somebody help me! I don’t know what’s real anymore!!

What is this life for? Is it for Norm of the North? If not, then what?!

What is this life for? Is it for Norm of the North? If not, then what?!

A Few Hours After My Mental Breakdown…

Norm of the North is my daddy… Norm of the North is my daddy… Norm of the North is my daddy… Papa Norm can you hear me?

Three Days Later…

I’m fine.

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The Plot

Seems like Ol’ King Normy of the North (Andrew Toth) has stepped into quite the pickle yet again. Just as his arctic kingdom was soon to celebrate a thing (can’t remember what), Norm’s crown was stolen! Oh no, kids! What will our kingly polar bear pal do now?! What’s that? That’s right! He’s going to do his darndest to find his crown in a neon infused amusement park on the coast of China while also doing his darndest to enjoy a wacky family vacation along the way! Of course!! Hey-o!!!

The Story

In the grand scheme of things, the story here is nothing all that special. We’ve got a polar bear king who has his crown stolen and a whiny family complaining that Norm doesn’t spend any time with them because of his kingly duties that he mostly neglects anyways. Because of Norm’s predicament, there’s a misunderstanding where his family thinks he’s setting up a surprise vacation so Norm goes along with it. Bringing his wife and children on a possibly dangerous and very life-threatening mission in order to retrieve his crown before a random curse is set upon his kingdom to unleash a terrible winter storm that will make life bad and stuff. There’s a bunch of wacky shenanigans, the family discovers Norm’s lies, there’s a two minute third act breakup segment, everyone realizes that family is important and they save the day just in time for a dance number leading to the end credits… And somehow this is the best one of the series.

No, that’s not a mistake or some weird typo. Norm of the North 4, by default, is the best one of the bunch. The story is about as basic as one can get… Yet it’s the most coherent and structurally sound out of the four movies. It feels so wrong, so dirty to compliment a Norm of the North sequel, but I can’t simply lie and say something is bad when it’s not. Although I thought good, long, and hard about compromising my morals so I may label this story a piece of crap. Not this time. Moving on, there really isn’t all that much to say in terms of narrative; it’s a straightforward plot that a toddler could come up with in their sleep. Granted I could go in-depth about how the premise is wildly generic, the plot devices are abhorrently convenient in order to only move things along, constantly forced excuses to squeeze in a lazy joke/pun somewhere, the entire story is predictable from beginning to end, and there isn’t a hint of innovation or imagination to tell an exciting tale. At this point though, what good would that do? It’s freaking Norm of the North 4! Anyone who stuck around for four of these damn movies should be counting their blessings that it was just generic and not something more nightmarish like the first two flicks. In the first three movies, I could go insanely in-depth when critiquing the stories alone because they were so punishing to watch. This time around, there’s nothing crazy about it and there’s nothing good about it really either. Mediocrity at its finest!

It’s Not Funny, But Not In the Same Way As the Rest

None of the Norm of the North movies are funny. None of them. If I even chuckled once at some point somewhere in these four movies I truly cannot remember. The first two films are jam packed with some of the worst fart/pee/poop/puke jokes and mindless pop culture references I’ve ever seen in a kids’ flick. The third one, not quite as bad; seemingly making an effort to have far less gross out humor and bad puns, although replaces it with nothing. Now in the fourth “adventure”, we’re still not getting anything funny, but this time around it’s as if they forget to have their “funny writer” knock out a draft of the script. So what we’re left with is a script with our characters just doing regular random stuff and talking normally, yet somehow these are supposed to be the jokes? I think. On occasion there’s a pretty bad pun that rears its ugly head from time to time; such as when one character asks Norm how the vacation is going and Norm responds with, “It’s very… ice.” Because he’s surrounded by ice… Ugh. My fingers ache to type that.

Other than that, it’s a slew of obvious setups for lame jokes, but the joke barely registers as a joke. Rather it’s mainly a normal line, but the character says it in a ‘goofy’ way and there’s an awkward pause immediately following it so I guess we’re supposed to laugh at that? It’s “funny” because the characters are saying ‘China’ over and over again or when Norm is trying to hide his secret mission from his family and the scene lingers on him telling his family that he’ll be right back as he begins hiding himself from them to steer the boat that they’re on. Nothing truly funny is said or done by any of the characters, yet for some reason the scene is under the impression that something funny happened… I’m pretty sure the scene is lying to me.

It's funny because he's slightly awkward?

It's funny because he's slightly awkward?

Is it sad to say that all this awkward silence and numerous unfunny moments are somehow an improvement? While, yes, it makes for an extremely boring sit. And I do mean boring! It’s better than the previous poor attempts at humor with being overly stupid and disgusting for no reason the entire 90 minute runtimes. At least in Family Vacation I’m fighting sleep instead of fighting myself from jumping head first into a bubbly bathtub while holding a plugged in toaster. High praise or not, I’ll take it. Sometimes the job of reviewing a movie can be quite dangerous. In that regard consider the Norm of the North movies to be the jungle where the Predator hunts down men, pulling out skulls and spinal cords from their bodies… Only way less cool. And there’s no Predator. Just an annoying polar bear once voiced by Rob Schneider. So it’s worse.

I turned down the sequels because they refused to buy me the bear suit I needed to really encompass the role... And I stopped drinking.

I turned down the sequels because they refused to buy me the bear suit I needed to really encompass the role... And I stopped drinking.

Norm Being a King and Family Man

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How do I put this? Oh yeah. Norm’s an idiot. Norm has always been an idiot. Norm will always be an idiot. He’s an idiot polar bear that somehow has refused to die after at the very least a thousand encounters with near death experiences. God clearly isn’t answering my prayers on this one. Anyhow, he’s an idiot. Anyone who knows him knows that he’s an idiot. Unfit to be responsible for literally anything… So why is it after all these years his friends and family still refuse to believe that this dumbass bear should not being ruling a kingdom and of course would make for a really sh*tty parent/husband?! I don’t understand. This bear legitimately ignores all of his disciples who are concerned about starving to death so he can text his family instead… God I hate that I just described a king bear text messaging. My life is sad and I am sad.

I think this image says it all.

I think this image says it all.

Then when it comes to Norm with his family, his family is a bunch of ungrateful little bastards whining how he never spends any time with them. Even though he just blew off the entire kingdom to play a game of tag with his kids only seconds prior. “Boo hoo! I’m a privileged white kid born from royalty and I have it oh so hard!” Suck it up, b*tch. Then on top of that, his family still gives Norm beef about how he’s all business or whatever and ignores his family, even though the matter that he’s trying to resolve could literally be a life or death situation for the entire kingdom… Ya know… the place where they live! Morons. So his family is a bunch of uppity, needy, little brats. Norm is a moron that somehow barely manages to not get everyone, including his own family, killed through the power of easy conveniences. In short, I hate them all and I don’t like how every installment teases the prospect of their demise and instantly takes all my hope away. It’s mean and I don’t like it.

Oh boy Dad, I love when you neglect an entire people just to spend time with us!

Oh boy Dad, I love when you neglect an entire people just to spend time with us!

Now we hate you because you never spend any time with us. Even though you do.

Now we hate you because you never spend any time with us. Even though you do.

The Random Curse Of… Sure, Why Not?

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That’s really all I have to say on the subject, “Sure, why not?” Because of course it couldn’t be as simple as Norm losing his crown and he needs to find it. No, no, no. What we really need is to introduce a random curse that will plague their kingdom if Norm doesn’t get his shiny hat back home so he can put it on a block of ice during a party. This was necessary. We needed this for reasons and plot and reasons. I’m so glad that Norm of the North 4 could shake things up by shoving in unexplained plot devices that were never before remotely mentioned in the series prior. This is a good thing. I am happy with how life turned out and I feel safe with my cinematic captors.

The Look

Norm of the North 4 is the best looking film in terms of animation and art direction out of the whole series. I noticed in the third movie, the animators and concept artists were clearly trying to improve their game a bit by providing some visual eye candy in their work. This time they’ve actually improved even more so. In no way would I consider this to be ‘theater quality’, but I would say for a direct-to-video cash grab, it earns a solid B+ for the effort. There are some vibrant colors going on in most the runtime, making for some stylish lighting and environments. The animation itself on the characters are now a hell of a lot better than they once were; eliminating all the dead eye syndromes the character models had and their movement actual feels natural now as opposed to the creepy dead puppet effect that was going on with their bodies. Even the water simulation in the movie is quite impressive for the low budget I’m sure this team is working with. Maybe not the greatest water effects I’ve seen, but the fact that it legitimately looks like water this time is beyond praise worthy in my book!

Overall

Norm of the North 4: Family Vacation is my friend, it would never hurt me. Not ever. Sure, it took me hostage against my will. Yes, it did torture me with a bland and mostly forgettable experience. True, this was a relatively bad movie and there’s a hundred other things I could have been and should have been doing that wasn’t being kidnapped by Norm of the North for a fourth time. There’s no denying that I was miserable from start to finish as I watched this unjustified franchise grow once more. No, I will never watch it again nor would I ever recommend this to anyone with children because there’s far better they could watch on Disney+ alone… But it was better than what I thought it was going to be and it didn’t hurt me like the rest of the series hurt me. This was mainly boring and generic with only the occasional headache inducing joke sprinkled in. Meaning, I’m happy to be alive and praise mediocrity. After four tries, Norm of the North finally did it. It broke me. I’m a good boy, Daddy Norm. Thank you for treating me so good. Until we meet again probably later this year with another sequel… I’m going to go cry in my bed and figure out a way to be sane again.

I Forgot About the Ice Penis!

There’s an ice penis. That is all.

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Favorite Norm Adventure

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That’s All Folks…

Norm of the North: Family Vacation… Well, that was weird. What did you think though? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Think I’ll ever be okay again? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a hostage negotiation-less day!

© 2020 John Plocar