Bearing It All: Rob Schneider Aims To Entertain and Educate with ‘NORM OF THE NORTH’


IMG_2178Preston Barta // Editor

Wouldn’t the Arctic be a great place to live? Don’t we all long for those infamous snowpocalypse days where you never have to de-robe and can binge-watch all those Netflix shows you’ve been meaning to catch up on?

Then again, that’s until cabin fever comes rushing in and your kids begin pulling your hair out. Suffice to say, it’ll get old quick. However, that’s not the case for friendly polar bear Norm, voiced by comedian-actor Rob Schneider (DEUCE BIGALOW, THE HOT CHICK), in the latest animated feature NORM OF THE NORTH.

The Arctic is Norm’s home and he’s willing to do anything to make sure nobody interferes with what’s his. This includes traveling to the Big Apple to make a case to keep business officials from building luxury condominiums on his homeland.

So what is our titular bear to do? He foils the scheme.

Former SNL player and veteran comic Rob Schneider voices Norm in NORM OF THE NORTH.

Former SNL player and veteran comic Rob Schneider voices Norm in NORM OF THE NORTH.

Change happens to the places we live — just take a look around your area. Perhaps your favorite burger joint is now a Starbucks. Times are indeed changing and local shops are now becoming commercially known businesses with mass appeal.

For Schneider, who stopped in Dallas, TX, last month on a press tour for the film, it happened to some of his favorite spots he used to go to with his father that no longer exist.

“My dad used to take me to this hot dog stand. In fact, the last meal my dad had was a hot dog. He loved hot dogs. How do they get rid of that? As you get older and years pass, it’s going to happen to you, too,” says Schneider. “‘Come on let’s go get that Thai food.’ ‘It closed.’ ‘When?’ ‘15 years ago?’ ‘How did this happen? Why didn’t they call me?’ ‘Well, you haven’t gone in 15 years, that’s why it’s closed.’”

This wasn’t the only truth Schneider directed attention to. He also spoke about the ever-changing comedy genre. Like horror, the type of comedy we laughed at back in the day may not generate the same kind of chuckles today.

“I like the challenge of these kind of films. It’s certainly much more interesting to try to do something like this and make it funny,” says Schneider. “I remember something Jerry Seinfeld said once. He said, ‘If it’s not funny without the swearing, it’s not funny.’”

For comedians like Jim Gaffigan and Nate Bargatze, clean comedy has worked quite well. Stand-up and modern comedy films are all too often associated with crude language and sexual humor, but for Schneider, he had to make the material more physically funny and situational.

The animated creatures of NORM OF THE NORTH. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

The animated creatures of NORM OF THE NORTH. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

“We worked really hard on this, this animated behemoth with gigantic studio bias. It’s strategic. We’re like some sort of fine-tuned heat-seeking animated missile. We have a specific target, we have to make sure we aim it where it’s really close to it, and boom!”

The trick for Schneider was to create material that would capture the attention of children and adults alike, while also leaving them with something they can take home.

The message with the film is clear: It shows the plight of the Arctic, the effects of global warming and the exploitation of natural gas and other natural resources. “I want kids to ask questions but also realize that there are two sides. You have to realize for every action, there’s a reaction. I think if you make kids aware, they’ll ask questions,” says Schneider. “If we told kids after this movie that polar bears are really in trouble, I think they would care about that. But I also think you have to be aware you’re there to entertain.”

NORM OF THE NORTH opened on Friday.

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About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.