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'Norm of the North' ploddingly follows in footsteps of 'Happy Feet'

'Norm of the North' ploddingly follows in footsteps of 'Happy Feet'
Rob Schneider voices a polar bear named Norm in "Norm of the North." (Lionsgate)

Treading blatantly on "Happy Feet" terrain, "Norm of the North" is a blandly uninspired animated adventure about a gentle polar bear who rises to the occasion when his frozen habitat is threatened by a greedy land developer.

Preferring to entertain tourists with his dance moves over hunting seals, Norm (voiced by Rob Schneider) would be the first to admit he's "softer than frozen yogurt," but when the megalomaniacal Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong) shows up intending to colonize the Arctic with luxury housing, he finds his true calling.

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Joined by a trio of lemmings, Norm travels to Manhattan with a plan to sabotage Greene's not-so-green agenda and in the process is embraced by New Yorkers who assume he's just another actor in a polar bear suit.

Given the small-screen feel of the visuals and the generic plotting, it's no surprise that director Trevor Wall comes from the world of television animation, but it's a shame the capable voice cast (also including Heather Graham, Bill Nighy and Colm Meany) didn't have more engaging characters at their disposal.

While the film, with its preponderance of potty jokes, might placate the very young already primed by boisterous singing chipmunks, older viewers will likely find it all harder to, uh, bear.

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"Norm of the North"

MPAA rating: PG for mild rude humor and action.

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

Playing: In general release.

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