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movie norm MOVIE REVIEW NORTH 800Norm, voiced by Rob Schneider, and other animated characters, appear in the movie "Norm of the North." (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

NEW YORK (CNS) – A wisecracking polar bear ventures south to save his home environment from destruction in "Norm of the North" (Lionsgate).

Though suitable for all ages, this animated comedy is unlikely to make much of an impression – either on targeted kids or on the long-suffering adults who accompany them.

Still, while it's certainly not in the Disney/Pixar league, and relies too heavily on scatological jokes to win cheap laughs, first-time director Trevor Wall's film does deserve some recognition for incorporating positive messages about family and friendship.

The eponymous creature (voice of Rob Schneider) suffers from a kind of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" syndrome: He just doesn't fit in with his ursine peers. He dislikes hunting seals for dinner, and would rather disco dance than growl at the gawking tourists on visiting cruise ships.

"I put the soul into solstice," he brags, twirling in the snow.

Norm is different in another way: He can "talk human," a gift shared only by his Grandpa (voice of Colm Meaney), the species' former sovereign.
"Polar bears are the icons of the north," Grandpa intones. "An icon with a voice can be very powerful indeed."

Norm learns that lesson for himself when a maniacal developer named Mr. Greene (voice of Ken Jeong) decides to build luxury houses on the polar ice shelf, threatening the ecosystem and the bears' way of life. Greene's assistant, Vera (voice of Heather Graham), is a reluctant participant in his scheme.

The mogul must be stopped at the source, and only a bear able to speak the lingo can do the job. Since Grandpa has mysteriously vanished, Norm is persuaded by the resident sage, a seagull named Socrates (voice of Bill Nighy), to hitch a ride to Manhattan and visit Mr. Greene's high-rise headquarters.

He's accompanied by a trio of lemmings, the Arctic's smallest creatures. Like Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel in the "Ice Age" films, these voiceless but cuddly stooges get into all sorts of mischief. In a misguided bid for giggles, they also relieve themselves in public as frequently as possible.

Having reached the Big Apple, Norm makes an ally of Vera and of her precocious daughter, Olympia (voice of Maya Kay). Young Olympia heavy-handedly schools the bear – and thus the audience – in the wickedness of corporate greed and its impact on our fragile planet.

Overall, "Norm of the North" is silly and rather tedious. Yet, in less time than it takes the picture's protagonist to shout, "Holy icicle!" all memory of the movie will probably have dissipated – like a morning mist over frozen tundra.

The film contains mild cartoonish violence, some bathroom humor, and a bit of adult wordplay. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Mr. McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.