North (1994)

22 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: Zero Stars

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

How in the world did this happen? How was this movie made? How did anyone think this idea could possibly work for a family film? How were all of these talented actors sucked into performing in it? The answers to all of those questions at once could make for a movie actually worth seeing. “North” is not worth seeing for any reason. It is a very bad movie—one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It is unfunny, manipulative, limp, very unpleasant to watch, and worst of all, it’s for kids. That meant kids were suckered into seeing this because they saw the trailer and expected it to be a delightful little romp—I feel sorry for those kids, but there’s comfort in knowing that there were much better films suitable for them out there.

“North” stars Elijah Wood as a young boy named North, who feels that his parents don’t appreciate him. The parents (Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, very odd casting if you’ve watched episodes of “Seinfeld”) are too busy arguing to even notice him. North hires a lawyer (Jon Lovitz) and goes into court in order to divorce himself from them and search for new, loving parents. This idea is contrived enough, but the way the movie goes through with it is shocking enough (this is just the beginning)—the parents are comatose with shock after realizing what North is planning to do and are set in display in the courtroom, unable to move or speak. This leaves Alan Arkin to overact horribly as the Judge and grant North the wish to find new parents. And if North doesn’t find new parents soon, he’ll be sent to an orphanage. Are you still with me?

North interviews different sets of parents, each of them taking place in truly awful sequences (about as awful as Alan Arkin’s overacting, the courtroom scene itself, and Jason Alexander’s pants-inspecting jokes). Many talented actors are victims in these sequences—Dan Aykroyd and Reba McIntire are Texans; Kathy Bates is an Eskimo; and so on. Not only are these sequences painfully unfunny—they’re unforgivably inaccurate, and not in a funny way. Aykroyd and McIntire are Texans who dress like Cowboys on Ice and give in to nonstop stereotyping dialogue about their daily routine, which is “dig for oil, bust a few broncs, rope some doggies, and eat, eat, eat!” (There’s also a painful musical number midway through this bizarrely unfunny scene.) And whose idea was it to cast Kathy Bates as an Eskimo with blackface? There’s also a set of Hawaiian parents who give off one of the most unpleasant lines in movie history (I won’t share the line, but it has to do with why the parents can’t have children). These characters are brought in strictly to become comic caricatures. They are badly written, broad, and ultimately desperate. There is no redeeming factor to any of these characters.

I have to wonder, did the writers mean to make jokes this bad? These jokes are horrible. Consider the courtroom scene where North’s original parents are comatose with shock—their lawyer says, “The defense rests.” Is it possible the script was written by a smart computer? It would surely explain the artificiality of the writing. This is the bottom of the barrel in Hollywood screenwriting.

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention two other characters who play big roles in the movie. First, there’s Winchell, played by a nails-on-the-blackboard annoying Matthew McCurley. Winchell is the editor for the school newspaper who has become the most powerful man (or boy) in the world since North’s case hit mainstream—kids order their parents now, threatening to divorce themselves too. When North finally realizes what he must do to make things right, Winchell sends a hit man out to kill him. The other character worth mentioning is a man played by Bruce Willis. The man seems to follow North around everywhere, like a guardian angel. He appears in many forms—the Easter Bunny, a cowboy, a beach comber, an Eskimo, and a Federal Express driver (product placement plug). North believes this guy looks familiar every time he sees him. Well, he is. Is he funny? No. Is he insightful? Not for a minute.

Elijah Wood should not have been saddled to play a role that no actor could have possibly pulled off. He’s not to blame. The blame has to go to the director of the film, who is Rob Reiner. Reiner has made some terrific movies (“This is Spinal Tap,” “The Sure Thing,” “Stand by Me,” “The Princess Bride,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Misery,” “A Few Good Men”) and must have thought “North” could have worked as a movie. But I don’t think he, nor any other gifted filmmaker, could have made this lame story idea into something enjoyable. “North” is an unholy mess, to say the least.

NOTE: This movie is so bad that I’m actually going to save you the trouble of finding that line said by the Hawaiian parents about why they can’t have children. Here it is—“Hawaii is a lush and fertile land. There’s only one barren area on our islands. Unfortunately, it’s my wife.” I feel dirty just writing that. I wonder how the screenwriter felt while writing that.

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One Response to “North (1994)”

  1. arkangirl March 24, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    Reblogged this on Arkanviews and commented:
    Hey there! Check out this review done by a good friend of mine. When I had first heard about this movie, I didn’t even know what on earth it was. With a title like this, the first thing that came to my mind was something Alaskan related. But after I watched a review done by another critic, I simply could not believe that this film even existed. It really is THAT bad of a film and I simply have to agree with some of the things in this review. Take my advice people, read this review and PLEASE don’t see this movie.

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