North (1994 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rob Reiner|
|Produced by||Rob Reiner
|Screenplay by||Alan Zweibel
|Based on||North: The Tale of a 9-Year-Old Boy Who Becomes a Free Agent and Travels the World in Search of the Perfect Parents
by Alan Zweibel
|Narrated by||Bruce Willis|
|Music by||Marc Shaiman|
|Edited by||Robert Leighton|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures (US)
Rank Film Distributors (UK)
|Box office||$7.1 million|
North is a 1994 American comedy film directed by Rob Reiner and starring an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood, Jon Lovitz, Jason Alexander, Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Faith Ford, Graham Greene, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Reba McEntire, John Ritter, and Abe Vigoda, with cameos by Bruce Willis and a 9 year old Scarlett Johansson (in her film debut). It was shot in Hawaii, Alaska, California, South Dakota, New Jersey, and New York. The story is based on the novel North: The Tale of a 9-Year-Old Boy Who Becomes a Free Agent and Travels the World in Search of the Perfect Parents by Alan Zweibel, who wrote the screenplay and has a minor role in the film.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (November 2015)|
A boy named North is listening to his parents argue about their problems at the dinner table. North has a panic attack, and begins to lose consciousness. As he does, the narrator explains that North is having difficulties with his parents, putting a damper on what is otherwise a successful life; North is a child prodigy, skilled in academics, sports, and drama, and is admired by many for his good work and obedient attitude, but constantly ignored by his own parents.
One day, while finding solace in a living room display at a mall, he is visited by a man in a pink bunny suit who claims to be the Easter Bunny, to whom North explains his problems. He realizes that his parents are unable to see his talents while all of the other parents in his neighborhood can. The Easter Bunny recommends that North tell his parents how he feels, but North says his parents do not deserve him if they are ignorant of his talents and appreciation for them. North then tells his friend Winchell, who works on the school paper, about his plan to possibly divorce himself from his parents. However, he decides to give his parents one last chance by giving them a phone call. When he is blown off by his father, North officially decides to divorce himself from his parents, hiring lawyer Arthur Belt to do so.
When the announcement of his divorce is made, his parents are shocked to the point where they are rendered comatose. With no opposition from North's parents, Judge Buckle gives North one summer to go out and find his new parents or he'll be put in an orphanage.
North's first stop is Texas, where he tries to spend some time with his first set of new parents. When North notices that they are attempting to fatten him up, they reveal that they want him to be more like their first son, Buck, who died in a stampede. The last straw comes when his new parents stage a musical number about the horrible things they're going to do to him. He is later visited by a cowboy named Gabby, who convinces him to look for his new parents somewhere else. Before leaving, Gabby gives North a good-bye present: a silver dollar that he shoots a hole in with his gun during a trick.
His next stop is Hawaii, where he meets Governor and Mrs. Ho, who also want to adopt him due to Mrs. Ho being infertile. However, Governor Ho soon unveils a new billboard as part of a campaign to increase settlements in Hawaii, which features North in a mortifying pose and are planned to be installed across the mainland U.S.A. Humiliated, North has a conversation with a metal detector-wielding tourist, realizing that parents should not rely on children for their own personal gain, and subsequently moves to Alaska.
There, he settles into an Inuit village with a father and mother, who send their elderly grandfather out to sea on an ice floe so that he may die with dignity. When North decides to leave Alaska, he realizes that his time is short, as the family walked during the six months of daylight and his summer is almost up. Meanwhile, North's real parents, still comatose, are put on display in a museum. Thanks to North's success, all the children in the world are threatening to leave their parents and hiring Arthur Belt as their lawyer, which propels Belt and Winchell into being the richest and most powerful people in the world.
North prepares to move in with a set of Amish parents, but is quickly discouraged by the lack of electricity (along with the large size of his new family) and leaves in a hurry. After going to Zaire, China and Paris, he finally settles in with a seemingly perfect American family, the Nelsons, that treat him as their own. Despite the Nelsons giving North the attention and appreciation he has craved, he still does not feel happy and leaves. He understands when he's told, "The Nelsons were good folks. They're just not your folks."
With the summer deadline fast approaching, North gives up searching for new parents and runs away to New York City. Winchell learns of North's appearance in New York. With the support of Belt, Winchell plans to have North assassinated and passed off as a martyr. North hides from a hitman hired to kill him when he finds out (via a videotape given to him by a friend) that his parents have not only snapped out of their comas, they beg their son to forgive them and return home.
He meets a comedian named Joey Fingers, who convinces North that "a bird in the hand is always greener than the grass under the other guy's bushes". He drives North to an airport so that he can reunite with his parents. However, the children, who realize that North's reunion would neutralize their power over their parents, are unwilling to let North reunite with his parents and chase him down. He is saved by a FedEx truck driver, who sees himself as a guardian angel.
As he rushes home to his parents before the summer is up, North is finally pursued by a hit-man as he runs towards his parents' arms. Just as he is about to be shot, North awakens in the mall, now empty, revealing that his adventures had all been a dream. North is taken back home by the Easter Bunny impersonator, and is greeted by a warm embrace from his parents. His parents remark how worried and upset they were about his welfare. On the way home, North discovers a silver coin with a hole through the middle in his pocket — exactly the same one he received from Gabby in his dream.
- Elijah Wood as North
- Bruce Willis as the Narrator - Easter Bunny, Cowboy (Gabby), Tourist, Sleigh driver, Joey Fingers, FedEx truck driver
- Jon Lovitz as Arthur Belt
- Matthew McCurley as Winchell
- Jason Alexander as North's father
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus as North's mother
- Alan Arkin as Judge Buckle
- Dan Aykroyd as Texas father
- Reba McEntire as Texas mother
- Alexander Godunov as Amish father
- Kelly McGillis as Amish mother
- Graham Greene as Alaskan father
- Kathy Bates as Alaskan mother
- Abe Vigoda as Alaskan grandfather
- Faith Ford as Donna Nelson
- John Ritter as Ward Nelson
- Scarlett Johansson as Laura Nelson
- Jesse Ziegler as Bud Nelson
- Keone Young as Governor Ho
- Lauren Tom as Mrs. Ho
- Ben Stein as Museum curator
- Taylor Fry as Zoe
- Alana Austin as Hannah
- Jussie Smollett as Adam
- Robert Costanzo as Al
- Rosalind Chao as Chinese mother
- Alan Rachins as Defense attorney
- Richard Belzer as Barker
- Marc Shaiman as Piano player
- Alan Zweibel as Coach
North has been called one of the worst films ever made, earning $7,182,747 for a budget of $40 million. Kenneth Turan, in his review, stated "The problem overall is not so much that the humor, especially in the parent-tryout situations, is forced, but that it simply is not there at all. So little is going on in this mildest of fantasies that it is hard to even guess what kinds of emotional effects were aimed at in the first place." Turan also asked "How could director Rob Reiner, whose touch for what pleases a mass audience is usually unfailing, have strayed this far?"
Siskel & Ebert's review
Film critic Roger Ebert seemed especially baffled by North, noting that Wood and especially Reiner had both previously made much better films. He suggested that the film was so poorly written that even the best child actor would look bad in it, and viewed it as "some sort of lapse" on Reiner's part. Ebert awarded North a rare zero-star rating, and even 20 years later it remained on his list of most hated films.
Comedian Richard Belzer, who appeared in North, goaded Reiner into reading aloud some of the review at Reiner's roast; Reiner jokingly insisted that "if you read between the lines, [the review] isn't really that bad." An abridged version of the remark quoted above became the title of a 2000 book by Ebert, I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, a compilation of reviews of films most disliked by Ebert.
Ebert and his co-host on Siskel and Ebert, Gene Siskel, both pronounced it the worst film of 1994 — a decision they each came to independently. In their original review, Ebert called it "one of the most thoroughly hateful movies in recent years. A movie that makes me cringe even when I'm sitting here thinking about it." He later added, "I hated this movie as much as any movie [he and Siskel] have ever reviewed during the 19 years we've been doing this show. I hated it because of the premise, which seems shockingly cold-hearted, and because this premise is being suggested to kids as children's entertainment, because everybody in this movie was vulgar and stupid, and because the jokes weren't funny and because most of the characters were obnoxious and because of the phony attempt to add a little pseudo-philosophy with the Bruce Willis character." Siskel continued by saying "I think [Ebert's] gotta hold Rob Reiner's feet to the fire here. I mean, he's the guy in charge, he's saying this is entertainment, it's deplorable. There isn't a gag that works. [Ebert] couldn't write worse jokes if I told [him] to write worse jokes. The ethnic stereotyping is appalling, it's embarrassing, you feel unclean as you're sitting there. It's junk. First class junk." and concluded the review by saying "Any subject could be done well, this is just trash, Roger." Ebert's future co-host on Ebert and Roeper, Richard Roeper, would later go on to list North as one of the 40 worst movies he's ever seen, stating, "Of all the films on this list, North may be the most difficult to watch from start to finish. I've tried twice and failed. Do yourself a favor and don't even bother. Life is too short."
Awards and nominations
|Razzie Award||Worst Actor||Bruce Willis||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actor||Dan Aykroyd||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actress||Kathy Bates||Nominated|
|Worst Screenplay||Andrew Scheinman||Nominated|
- "NORTH (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1994-05-05. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
- "North (1994)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- rottentomatoes.com, "North", accessed July 2, 2015.
- Turan, Kenneth (July 22, 1994). "Movie Review: North". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
- Roger Ebert (1994-07-22). "Ebert reviews North". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
- I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, Amazon.com; accessed August 23, 2015.
- DuPree, Don (director). "The Worst Films of 1994" (January 6, 1995). Television: Siskel & Ebert. Burbank: Buena Vista Television. 
- Richard Roeper, 10 Sure Signs a Movie Character is Doomed and Other Surprising Movie Lists, New York: Hyperion Books, 2003, pp. 66-67.
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