North (film)

North (film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Reiner
Produced by Rob Reiner
Alan Zweibel
Andrew Scheinman
Screenplay by Alan Zweibel
Andrew Scheinman
Based on Novel:
Alan Zweibel
Narrated by Bruce Willis
Starring Elijah Wood
Jason Alexander
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Bruce Willis
Jon Lovitz
Matthew McCurley
Music by Marc Shaiman
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Editing by Robert Leighton
Studio Castle Rock Entertainment
Distributed by USA:
Columbia Pictures
New Line Cinema
Release date(s) July 22, 1994
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[1]
Box office $7,182,747 (US)[1]

North is an American 1994 comedy film directed by Rob Reiner, and starring Elijah Wood, Bruce Willis, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Dan Aykroyd, Reba McEntire, and Alan Arkin. 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 also wrote the screenplay and has a minor role in the film. It is also Scarlett Johansson's debut film and the only film appearance of Brynn Hartman. Despite an all-star cast and director Rob Reiner at the helm, North became a massive box office bomb, earned overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics, and was hated so heavily by notable critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert that they both named it the worst film of 1994. It is often regarded as one of the worst movies ever made.

It was shot in Hawaii; Alaska; California; Keystone, South Dakota; New Jersey; and New York.



The movie begins with North (Elijah Wood) listening to his parents (Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) argue at the dinner table. North has a panic attack, and begins to lose consciousness. As he does, the narrator (Bruce Willis) explains that North is having difficulties with his parents, putting a damper on what is otherwise a successful life; North is a child prodigy who is admired by many, 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 (also played by Bruce Willis), 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 suggests that North make up with his parents.

North then tells his friend Winchell (Matthew McCurley), 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 (Jon Lovitz) 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 (Alan Arkin) 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 at Texas, where he tries to spend some time with his first set of new parents (Dan Aykroyd and Reba McEntire). 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 (also played by Bruce Willis) who convinces him to look for his new parents somewhere else. His next stop is Hawaii, where he meets Governor Ho and Mrs. Ho (Keone Young and Lauren Tom), who also want to adopt him. However, Governor Ho soon unveils a new billboard that features North in an embarrassing manner that will be installed along every major highway in the mainland; he hopes that people will become more inclined to settle in Hawaii knowing that North lives there. Humiliated, North has a conversation with a metal detector-wielding tourist (also played by Bruce Willis) and subsequently moves to Alaska. There, he settles into an Inuit village with a father and mother (Graham Greene and Kathy Bates), who send their elderly grandfather (Abe Vigoda) out to sea on an ice floe so that he may die with dignity. Meanwhile, North's real parents, still comatose, are put on display in a museum (the curator of which is played by Ben Stein). 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 (Alexander Godunov and Kelly McGillis), 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 Africa, China and Paris, he finally settles in with a seemingly nice family (played by John Ritter, Faith Ford, Scarlett Johansson and Jesse Zeigler) that treat him as their own. However, despite this near-perfect life, North still isn't happy and leaves. 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 hit man 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 him and return home. He meets a comedian named Joey Fingers (also played by Bruce Willis), 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 have taken advantage of North's case up to this point, are unwilling to let North reunite with his parents and chase him down. He is saved by a FedEx truck driver (also played by Bruce Willis), 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 been all a dream. North is taken back home by the man who claimed to be the Easter Bunny (Bruce Willis), and is greeted by a warm embrace from his parents.



North received almost entirely negative reviews, often called one of the worst films ever, and flopped at the box office, earning about US$7 million for an estimated budget of US$40 million.[2] North suffered severely from competition during the summer of 1994 with The Lion King, Forrest Gump, True Lies, The Mask, The Flintstones, and Clear and Present Danger. In addition, it was panned by many critics for its humorless jokes, adult content, racial insensitivity, references to pedophilia, ethnic stereotyping, cold-hearted characters and incomprehensible plot. North was a multiple nominee at the 1994 Golden Raspberry Awards and was nominated for Worst Picture and Worst Director for Rob Reiner. As of July 2010, it has scored 11% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes,[3] and 4.2/10 on the Internet Movie Database.[4]

Siskel and 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. However, 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 sixteen years later it remains on his list of most hated films. His review concluded with the now-famous statement:

"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."[5]

Comedian Richard Belzer 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 opening 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.[6]

Both 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.[7] In their original review, Ebert called it "one of the most thoroughly hateful movies in recent years." He later added, "I hated this movie as much as any movie we [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 called it "deplorable", "first-class junk", "trash", and "cataclysmically unfunny", as well as saying that it made him feel "unclean" while he was watching it.[8] 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, saying that, "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."[9]

Rights and home video releases

The film was a production of Castle Rock Entertainment, with some financing provided by New Line Cinema. When released theatrically in July 1994, North was distributed by Columbia Pictures domestically, while international distribution sales were held by New Line. On January 4, 1995, New Line Home Video in conjunction with Columbia TriStar Home Video and Image Entertainment released North on VHS and Laserdisc formats due to New Line's original partnership with this film. In Spring 2001, Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment re-issued North purchasing full video rights from New Line but only on VHS at the time. No video re-issue is currently planned, but because New Line (and later PolyGram) originally had ancillary U.S. rights, it is possible that it will be re-issued through MGM. In any event, the current domestic distribution remains uncertain.

The film has been released on DVD outside of North America, through independent distributors, possibly the companies that originally distributed the film theatrically for New Line.

As of March 2011, North is available on Netflix through their instant streaming service, but it is unknown whether it is MGM or Warner Bros. that re-issued the film on Netflix.


External links

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