⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Unrated but includes adult themes.

Theater: Eden Prairie.

Equally fascinating and frustrating, writer/director/actor Ross Partridge's "Lamb" explores a threatening February and November relationship between odd kindred spirits.

David Lamb (Partridge) is a Chicago businessman in the middle of a collapsing marriage. While having an outside smoke one afternoon, he finds himself approached by 11-year-old schoolgirl Tommie (Oona Laurence), aiming to impress her clique by bumming a cigarette from him. That chance encounter triggers an odd connection between the two, he seeing himself as a surrogate father for the troubled girl, and she viewing him as an escape path from a confusing new stage of her life.

Setting aside the question of whether he is trustworthy enough or she mature enough to handle personal decisions, she agrees to his invitation to drive to the Rocky Mountains, camp out together and drink in the beauty of nature. Is Lamb a predatory wolf in disguise? Or a well-intended if lonely good samaritan? Is Tommie the victim of what looks like disconnected parenting at home or a difficult child who has pushed her parents away?

The pair run away, perhaps eloping, possibly avoiding daily lives they can't endure. Partridge keeps the guessing game at a steady boil as the pair take their "Lolita"-like journey across the country. Withholding as much information as possible about the couple's ongoing relationship invites our imagination to uplifting and apocalyptic conclusions alike. The film requires us to mentally debate every moment and give it the benefit of our doubt, whatever worries that ignites.


Norm of the North

⋆ out of four stars

Rating: PG, contains mild rude humor and action.

Think of every trope associated with animated family movies and you'll find them all in this thoroughly uninspired story of a polar bear trying to save his habitat from a hypocritical hippie seeking to develop condos in the Arctic.

Like most movie polar bears, Norm is terrible at hunting seals but very good at twerking. Even cuter creatures serve as adorable comic relief. (As Minions are to the "Despicable Me" movies, lemmings are to "Norm of the North.") Of course there's scatological humor — finally, a movie brave enough to show what happens when cartoon lemmings pee into a fish tank! — not to mention multiple scenes in which the characters gratuitously get their groove on to contemporary pop songs.

The producers even shoehorn in a legitimate social issue — climate change — in an effort to convince adults to take the movie semi-seriously. This much is clear: You and your kids could probably craft a richer, more exciting polar bear adventure using nothing but Klondike bar wrappers and the power of the imagination. That's a power sadly missing from "Norm of the North."

Jen Chaney, Washington Post