Here's our review of the Norm of the North: Keys to the Kingdom DVD!
Norm, the king of the arctic, heads to New York City, where he runs into all kinds of trouble. When he returns home, the trouble follows. Features the voices of Alex Toth, Maya Kay, Alan Marriott, and Lee Tockar. Directed by Richard Finn and Tim Maltby.
Norm of the North: Keys to the Kingdom is an underwhelming animated effort, which may capture the attention of the very young, but try the patience of everyone else.
A sequel to 2016’s theatrical release Norm of the North, Keys to the Kingdom actually combines two short stories into one feature. It’s a smart move, as neither plotline is strong enough to stretch to a full movie. According to reports, two shorter Norm productions intended for “straight-to-video” release were combined into a feature film which saw a limited theatrical release. The switch from one storyline to another midway through the film is obvious, but not as jarring as you would expect: the producers did an admirable job meshing the two narratives.
The first story involves Norm the polar bear (voiced by Andrew Toth) traveling to New York City to get the key to the city. After he accused of robbing several banks, Norm must prove his innocence.
The second story moves the setting back north, where Norm and the various animals of the Arctic challenge a bottled water company who is taking polar ice to make their water. The challenge comes in the way of a hockey game, with the winner gaining control of the Arctic ice.
The water company brings in a professional hockey team to play Norm and his team, in an icy takeoff of Space Jam. Don’t expect anything on that level of entertainment, however. Rather than giving us “Looney Tunes” style antics, the humor is a bit juvenile, which should keep little ones entertained. There are a couple of sly references - callouts to Bill O’Reilly and Rocky IV - that grown-ups will enjoy.
For the most part, however, the story relies heavily on pratfalls and “dad jokes” to generate laughs. Kids will love that, of course, but if any adults are roped in to watching alongside, they will likely have a hard time. Disney, Dreamworks, and a number of animated TV shows all manage to combine wit and humor that appeals to young and old. The mostly silly humor and one-liners in Norm of the North appear amateurish in comparison.
On the plus side, the film’s designated comic relief, the lemmings, inject some genuinely funny moments. Their Minion-like antics are some of the movie’s saving graces. A new character named Fong (a rabbit from Chinatown) is a welcome addition, giving Norm a Yoda-like mentor/comparison. The hockey commentators who call the game also deliver some solid laughs.
None of the first film’s original voice talent (including Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, and Bill Nighy) returned for this sequel, with a cast of mostly voice actor veterans stepping in to the roles. Honestly, you won’t miss the “celebrities:” the voice cast for the sequel does a fine job. I’ve never understood why some animated films feel the need to cast “celebrities” to voice characters, when there are experienced voice actors who often do a far better job.
Alex Toth, Maya Kay, Alan Marriott, and Lee Tockar lead the voice cast, and they do an admirable job giving life to their characters. The character and art design is well done, but the actual animation movement isn’t quite up to par. The animation is choppy and rushed, and seems a decade behind what most other studios are putting out.
Norm of the North: Keys to the Kingdom is a fairly entertaining distraction for young kids, but won’t do much to engage anyone older than eight.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The standard definition transfer on the DVD isn’t going to fare well compared to an HD or 4K transfer, but it looks suitably good nevertheless. There’s decent sharpness and the colors are bold, and my LG UP875 4k player upscaled the image well onto my TCL 55 inch 4K set. All in all, a solid image.
The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, which sounds very crisp, although the channel separation and bass isn’t very prominent.
There are no special features included here. None. Not even a digital copy. This disc is as bare-bones as you can get.
Release Date: February 12, 2019
Running Time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing