I’m taking a break from all the older, more obscure movies I’ve been reviewing lately and I’m reviewing something more recent and mainstream, a movie called North, released in 1994.
North was directed by Rob Reiner. Reiner is a well known director for such movies as “When Harry Met Sally”, “A Few Good Men”, “The Princess Bride”, and “Stand By Me”. All of those movies were well received and Reiner is a fully capable director. Sure, he’ll mess up every now and then like with “Rumor Has It…”, but North can’t be one of his bad movies, right?
North stars Elijah Wood at the age of 13, and he was a good actor back then (had a major role in the movie “Avalon”, which received numerous Academy Award nominations.) He’s still a good actor, but that’s beside the point. North also features Bruce Willis, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz, and an appearance from a young Scarlett Johansson. With all that star power surely this movie should be good right? Right?
Well…this movie has a reputation. What kind of reputation you might ask? Rather than explaining it, let me quote Roger Ebert’s review of it.
"I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."
Yeah, even when I review a mainstream picture there’s something wrong with it. What can be so bad about it though? Let’s find out!
The movie starts at a suburban home surrounded by trees. The opening credit music's nice enough, although the footage of model trains and other various toys moving around is boring and has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. REPEATED SHOTS ON SNOW GLOBES DO NOT MAKE YOUR CREDITS INTERESTING. Rob Reiner is putting his name all over these credits too- director, producer, presented by; you'd think he was actually involved with this.
After the credits, we see Elijah Wood sitting at a table as North. He’s eating supper with his parents, played by Jason Alexander and Julia Louise-Dreyfus. This isn’t a very pleasant meal though, his parents are angrily shouting about all sorts of random crap. North is trying to get his parents' attention, but they just ignore him and continue bickering about their days. They're not arguing, just shouting. Heck, they’re not even shouting about the same things – his dad’s shouting about some co-worker and his mother’s shouting about…honestly I have no idea. These are the most self-centered parents I’ve ever seen. Bruce Willis - yes John McLean Willis - starts narrating.
"Now as a rule, 11-year-olds don't experience cardiac events, but for North this was a very stressful time. Yes North was having a difficult time with his folks." North starts hyperventilating as he holds his hands to his chest.
The movie then shows a montage of how special this North kid is, like how he has a 91% average in school, how he's very good at baseball, how he's good at performing arts (well, if you consider wailing your arms around and singing like a fruitcake good at performing arts.)
Movie goes back to North having a panic attack at the table as his father's still talking about how he really knows his pants or...something like that. His parents finally calm down, so North tries to talk to his dad. His dad says,
"Dad, do you know what that stupid Rachael did to me today?" His dad then says,
"Saw some blood on my stool this morning." A little pre-occupied there Mr. North? Yeah, North’s parents are never given first names, so I’ll just call them Mr. and Mrs. North. Anyway North screams and falls out of his chair. This gets his parents' attention, at last. They jump right at him and ask if he's OK. Does he really need to scream like that to get his parent's attention? If he had that much trouble at home he probably wouldn't be getting 90's at school – he’d be getting detentions.
His dad says,
"Quick, loosen his pants." If this wasn't supposed to be his father, I'd be making all sorts of pedophile jokes here. At this, North suddenly feels better and sits back up. That was...a quick recovery to what looked like a serious panic attack.
Bruce comes back to narrate some more,
"But North wasn't OK; this parent thing was starting to affect every aspect of his life."
Bruce sounds like he's trying to get through this narration as quickly as possible, as if he doesn't want anything to do with this crap. I don't blame him, 6 minutes in and I can already tell this is a stinker.
Another montage begins, this time showing how North is suffering in all his endeavors, like forgetting lines on stage, messing up a science project, and pitching poorly at a baseball game. His coach asks if North is alright, and North is asking himself why only his parents don't care about him. Yeah kid, you're distracted - it happens to all of us.
North walks off the field and goes to his "secret spot" - an armchair in a furniture store. How is that secret? Bruce Willis walks up to North in a bunny suit. Yeah, Willis is wearing a bunny suit, and his character is supposed to be taken seriously. Am I watching a real movie?
[yes that is a carrot in his hands]
He asks North's name, and then comments,
"I've seen your name on maps." There's going to be a lot of unfunny North jokes in here isn't there...great, looking forward to it. He then explains that he's the Easter Bunny from a toy store upstairs. He talks about how he wears all sorts of costumes and that "My life's a holiday. What about you?"
"Not lately," North replies. He talks about how he had a bag game today; how he walked 9 players and hit his coach's wife with a wild pitch. Holy crap dude, your coach kept you on the field you nailed your coach’s woman in the face? In real life you might even get kicked off the team, depending on which league that is. See what I'm dealing with here?
Bruce realizes that North's parents don't see anything special in him, while all the other parents see that he's special, even though North hasn’t even implied that he’s a special kid yet. Next up, another montage – this time of parents talking about how special North is supposed to be.
"North's room is always clean."
"North always looks both ways," before crossing the street.
"North never spoils his appetite," by sneaking cookies out of the jar.
"North flosses." How fricken long is this movie?
Bruce tells North that he's not alone - and argues that just because he's in a bunny suit doesn't mean he never comes across truth...actually Willis, because of the suit anything you say is automatically invalid. Why did you sign up for this? Anyway, Bruce says that children commonly have similar feelings of under appreciation.
"The one thing we can't control in this life is who our parents are." Uh Mr. Bunny suit idiot, there are plenty more things we can't control. We can't control the weather, we can't control the temperature outside, we can't control what other people think of us, we can't control the earth's orbit, we can't change the fact that yes, we will all die someday - I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Bruce suggests that North goes home and lives his life. The movie fades into another scene as if the LSD is starting to kick into the film reel.
Then we get an extreme closeup of this kid saying,
"What a scoop! A kid becomes a free agent." Apparently North is going to become a free-agent kid and auction himself off to the highest bidding parents. What the frick is this? Some journalist kid pushes him to go ahead with this before it’s too late, and mispronounces Pulitzer in the process.
North tries to call his parents to give them one last chance. His mom is so busy that her call's not even onscreen, so we move to his dad at the...pants factory? A factory that includes an office where some golfer is swinging a club and a lumberjack is cutting down a tree and a golfer?
What kind of factory has lumberjacks inside?
Oh, and there’s also some crazy dancer with a mountain painting in the background and a Jewish rabbi.
His dad picks up just to suggest they talk over dinner. North hangs up and auctions himself off.
[I don't even know what North's dad is doing here]
The journalist kid leads a large group of kids out of the school and tells everyone to hand out his papers all over town. So you’re really telling me that one student can write a full newspaper every day and hand it out everywhere for free? What’s so special about North when we’ve got a 10-year-old running the New York Times off of lunch money?
North is walking down the street when a car stops right beside him. A lawyer named Arthur Belt, played by Jon Lovitz, pops out and introduces himself. Belt explains that he can help North divorce his parents, and without any hesitation North accepts.
A quick montage shows parents arguing with their kids about North's parent divorce.
“What a great idea, North is a genius,” some kid says.
“Jeffery don’t be ridiculous,” his father replies.
“Where did I put that phone number for Arthur Belt?” Jeffery asks.
“Did I say ridiculous? What I meant to say was you look very handsome today.” Most cowardly father ever – you know North will never win this case right? Besides, you could just unplug the phone, and any real parent would realize that Jeffery doesn’t actually have Belt’s number.
"His parent's aren't going to take this lying down," another parent says. Next shot shows North's parents reading the article and fainting. Get it? They're lying down even though the other mother said they wouldn't. These jokes are less funny than a disabled kid getting pushed down the stairs.
The trial begins with the judge saying,
"Let me remind you, this is a trail, not a hearing. Even though both sides will be saying things that I will be hearing, this is not a hearing. No doubt, you'll all be hearing the same things I'll be hearing - that's your privilege. However, once both sides have been heard it'll be my job to pass judgment. Obviously you can all pass judgment too but it won't count. That is because I am the one who is the judge." What the frick was that? This judge is the most illegitimate judge I've ever seen in a movie. Heck, Mr. Bean would make a better judge, and he'd just keep banging his hammer down because he liked the sound of it.
"Have I made myself clear to the defense?" The judge asks.
"Your honor, the defense rests," The defendant lawyer says as...what? North's parents are still unconscious? This is going to become another running gag, isn't it? I'm never going to finish this review, am I?
"In my judgment, any folks who would sleep through a trial like this are folks who don't deserve to have a wonderful outstanding son like North. I rule in favour of the plaintiff." Wow, just wow. My brain just imploded. Somehow North wins his parental divorce case without a trial – this is the most unpleasant kid's movie I've ever seen.
All the kids in the court room start cheering, save for the journalist who appears to be scheming about...something. To settle down the cheering ruckus, the judge throws his hammer at North's lawyer. Yeah, ruling in favour of some selfish kid and throwing your hammer at the crowd is a very easy way to get disbarred there lawyer, you should probably try to get a new job as a Wall Mart greeter.
The judge then declares that North has 2 months to choose new parents so that he can start his new school year with them. If he's not in the arms of his new or original parents by noon on labor day, he'll be sent to an orphanage.
Next up, another montage - I believe that's four montages in this movie so far. Time to start a montage counter!
North Montages - 4
In this montage, a full board of receptionists are accepting bids from potential parents. I can't hear what most of them are saying, but one states that North believes in both God and evolution. Seriously, what kind of kid is this? Sure, there are crazy people that believe in both, but this is an 11-year-old kid who thinks deeply about them? There's a difference between child prodigy and a lunatic man trapped in a child's body.
Anyway, North flies west first class to Texas where he's picked up by...Dan Aykroyd? Come on Dan, you created the Ghost Busters - this is far beneath you. He and his wife, played by country singer Reba McEntire, aren't even dressed like cowboys, they're dressed like Los Vegas performers pretending to be cowboys. They're driving a golf cart with a prairie-like trailer behind it.
Dan’s accent is over the top as well. They drive North out of the airport in an extra long limo that simply couldn't turn to save it's life, which happens to have bull horns on its front.
This is taking a stereotype and blowing it so far out of proportion that that it's like comparing a regular firecracker to the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
"Everything I own is the biggest and the best." Aykroyd 's character says.
So Aykroyd's character owns a lot of land, several big houses and even owns the Huston Astros, although he just signed them over to North. Uh, this is called bribery isn't it. North, you should realize there's something wrong here if he's giving you a baseball team before you've even confirmed them as your new parents. Actually, North realizes this and says,
"Aren't we rushing things a little?" Right there, five bottles are blown to smithereens by...Bruce Willis? Apparently he's a cowboy now, and Aykroyd is his boss. Hurry, run to the next scene while there's still time!
North is sitting at the dinner table now. Aykroyd 's cowgirl wife asks what is planned for tomorrow and Dan answers,
"Well, I reckon we'll wake up early and eat, then we'll dig for oil and eat, then we'll rope some dogeys bust a few brumps and then maybe we'll grab a bite to eat." Meanwhile servers are piling food onto North's plate as if he's a sumo wrestler. Seriously there's a rib larger than North's head, a cob of corn, a serving of potatoes twice the size of his shoulder, two chicken breasts the size of VHS tapes and a large glass of milk to the side.
"You like Tex Mex?" Aykroyd asks.
"Sure, I'm a fan of any food that straddles two boarders," North replies. This is enough to get Aykroyd laughing like the Joker in the 1966 Batman series, and that alone makes me cringe.
"Can I ask you what the deal is with all this eatin'?" North asks. A perfectly valid question there, give us an answer Aykroyd!
"Oh simple. Remember when I told you everything I own is the biggest and the best? Well you're already the best, now there's nothing left but to make you the biggest." What? North is understandably disturbed by this prospect. The country singer adds,
"Don't you fret about not being able to clean up your plate. Why pretty soon that stomach of yours will stretch and stretch and your capacity to eat food will just grow and grow."
"Excuse me, you say that like it's a good thing to happen to your stomach."
The two crazy cowboy parents then explain that they once had a son named Buck. Buck was huge and could eat more in one day than anyone else could in a whole month. Buck died in a stampede, and they want North to replace him.
"Needless to say it was a mighty big loss," Aykroyd says. Yeah, a full minute build up for a fat dead person joke. This movie is becoming more uncomfortable by the minute. But don't worry, the movie won't dwell on Buck for too long - we have a song coming up.
Ugh, this song is terrible; it's like combining the worst of country with 11 megaton’s of stereotype complete with dancers that look more like ice skaters than cowboys. I'd rather be watching Superman: the Musical right now - that's not a joke.
"You'll grow tall, play football - be famous." All the female dancers sing.
"You'll grow more, own a chain of stores and marry Betty Lou." The male dancers sing as some girl flips down the table toward North. The song ends with Aykroyd asking,
"’Nother rib son?" Then the screen goes black - thankfully.
In the next scene, North is sitting on a fence in the evening. Willis joins him and asks if he's alright. North tells him how if he stays there, he'll always live in the shadow of someone else.
"I left home because my parents wouldn't appreciate me for who I was, so why would I want to be with new parents that could only appreciate me if I was somebody else?" North asks. Willis says that he might be onto something - holy crap he is! My question is how did North not run away screaming in terror after that musical number? He should be long gone by now, why is he still here thinking? Bruce then says,
"Sometimes when you're panning for gold, you have to try more than one stream." So that’s Willis’s gag here, always spouting oddly-worded advice that North has already realized.
North leaves for the airport, but not before Willis tosses a coin in the air and shoots a hole in it. He gives the defaced money to North as a present, hoping that it'll bring him luck. More like a hefty fine for defacing money – what the frick? It's a perfectly round hole in the exact middle too, I'm pretty sure that a bullet would shatter the coin or at least melt the middle of it and bend it in one direction.
[this doesn't seem physically possible]
Back at home, the journalist is holding a rally encouraging kids to resist their parents. He calls groundings and punishments injustices. Somehow North's case is turning him into a man of power? Oh, and North's lawyer is clapping behind him. They've started some vague movement that the movie refuses to explain to us, and...now we're back with North. That was silly and pointless.
North is heading to Hawaii now, complete with more ridiculous stereotypes. His potential parents here are the governor and his wife Ms. Ho. Whoa there movie, that's very dirty for a kid's movie.
"In Hawaii aloha means hello and goodbye," Ms. Ho explains.
"Doesn't that get confusing?" North asks.
"Only when you're firing someone," The governor answers. They should have said aloha to whoever wrote that joke.
Now it's time for Montage #5…yippee!
This montage includes snorkeling with the fish, with a stupid line about living longer because of the time zones. How the frick does that work? Then they start parasailing; I wish I was parasailing right now.
"Another thing North, if you live in Hawaii, it's much easier to get into a good college," the governor explains.
"How's that?" North asks. Good question North, I'd think it would be harder considering Hawaii isn't well known for academics.
"On the island we only have 12 letters in our alphabet." He continues on about how they have 5 vowels and seven consonants.
"How does that help me get into college?" North asks.
"Since we don't use the letters B, C, D, and F, you're pretty much guaranteed to get straight A's." The humour in this movie is on-par with Baby Geniuses 2, HEEEEEELP!
North asks if the governor has any deceased kids, to which the governor explains that his wife cannot bear a child. Fair enough, and so far these parents seem fairly nice. They decide to negotiate bed times and sleepovers after that - things are looking up right now, but we’re only 30-minutes in, chances are something really stupid is going to happen.
The movie cuts to a festival of some kind with some dude juggling fire, HARDCORE! It's almost as if Rob Rainer just wanted a paid vacation so he made a movie in as many nice locations as possible. At the festival, the governor reveals North to a cheering crowd, comparing him to the wind in Chicago and peaches in Georgia. Yes, because North blows like the wind and peach fuzz is growing inside my brain because of how painful this movie is becoming.
Suddenly, a big advertising poster is revealed, showing North on a beach with an octopus pulling down his bathing suit and revealing his butt crack. WHAT THE FRICK IS THIS THING?
"What gives you the right to show my crack?" North asks. A very legitimate point I might add. The governor explains that Hawaii is running low on self esteem. Yes, which is why they removed B, C, D, and F so that everyone got straight A's right? Ms. Ho complains that people come to Hawaii for a vacation and only pretend like they care. North's bidding parents take turns explaining how Hawaii doesn't get the respect it deserves in the country.
"Excuse me but what does this have to do with my crack?" North shouts - again a legitimate point. The governor reveals that North would attract more people to stay in Hawaii - what? How much of a prodigy is this kid? Is he so impressive that his mere presence in a remote location would increase immigration? That's even creepier than anything else. I can't believe there isn't a moment, not even a single line in this movie that I can't complain about.
North walks alone on the beach in his deep thoughts and runs into Bruce Willis again. I guess he's supposed to be some guardian angel or something, but I'm not buying it. He's walking around with a metal detector making fun of people exercising.
"They say for every hour you exercise you add an hour to your life. Who needs all that extra time if you're going to spend it exercising?" Real cute Willis, that's about as deep as a puddle of water on your floor after you drop an ice cube on it.
"I don't think I should settle for parents who have to show my most private crevice on a billboard to feel better about themselves," North says.
"It's refreshing to meet a kid who has such strong convictions about his crack." Really? I don't know any kids who don't have such strong convictions about their crack. I hate this movie, I really do!
Next up, North travels to Alaska. The plane lands on ice and we hear the plane announcer say they'll be showing another full movie as the plane stops. Uh, I'm pretty sure they'd de-ice the runway one way or another. Frick, I came up with better jokes when I wrote a Home Alone rip-off at the age of 7 - heck it was probably better than Home Alone 4 despite making absolutely no sense.
Meanwhile, the journalist kid has become one of the most powerful people in the country and is making a speech in front of thousands. North's parental divorce is turning other kids' parents into slaves as they do everything for them. Heck, parents aren't allowed to see R-rated movies unless their kids come along - EVEN IF A KID COULD DIVORCE HIS PARENTS THE WORLD WOULDN'T CHANGE THIS MUCH, ESPECIALLY WITHIN 1 WEEK! The reporter has even teamed up with North's lawyer and have come up with a backup plan in case North doesn't choose new parents on time. The journalist has power over the kids, who have power over their parents, and they plan to make North's Lawyer the next president of the US. I call bull crap on this, if the kids have become this powerful why wouldn’t they nominate a 10-year-old as president.
Anyway, back to North's skidding plane. The plane bumps into the airport window and stops - that's the joke. All I ask is one funny joke - please, just one funny joke!
Christmas music is playing in the background as MONTAGE #6 begins. A dog sled is riding in the snow as I wonder why Christmas music is playing while this movie's taking place in July. The dogs carry...Graham fricken Greene? Greene is in this movie too? Is he going to set explosives like in Red Green or try to disarm them like in Die Hard with a Vengeance? No? Then why the frick is he in this movie?
He holds out his remote and opens up a garage door on an igloo - I give up, I'm going to have to split this review in two parts. There's just so much to go on about here and it'll take forever to finish this review. I'm continuing this review next week. It's not that I can't stand this thing - I've seen worse - but there's so much to talk about here that I simply cannot cover it in one week with all my school work going on.
This movie is amazing – I can’t believe how insulting it really is. I’m only half-way through it and this is probably my longest review on this blog to date. But surely it gets better after this right? Frick no, it gets even worse – just wait.