is a 1994 film directed by Rob Reiner. The story is based on the novel North
by Alan Zweibel, who also wrote the screenplay and has a minor role in the film.
An 11-year-old boy named North (Elijah Wood
) tires of his parents (Jason Alexander and Julia Louis Dreyfus), who never pay any attention to him
even though he's a model student, athlete, and even actor. He legally emancipates himself from them, and wanders around the world seeking a new family
with a deadline of Labor Day; if he doesn't find a new family by then, he will be placed in an orphanage. Along the way, he encounters parents that are Texan, Alaskan, Hawaiian, Amish, etc
, and tries to blend in with each group of parents (well, not the Amish). He finally decides that his own parents are the best with the help of a guardian angel (Bruce Willis
) who uses several guises throughout the film
. However a conniving kid friend of his, Winchell, used the publicity North's escapades garnered to rally kids everywhere to make their parents more subservient to them. Knowing that North reconciling with his parents would undermine this, he plots to have him killed.
Not related to the film El Norte
. This film was also Scarlett Johansson
's film debut.
Provides Examples Of:
- Actor Allusion: The Amish couple is played by Alexander Godunov and Kelly McGillis, a reference to their roles in Witness.
- All Just a Dream
- All-Star Cast
- Ambulance Chaser: Arthur Belt (played by Jon Lovitz), who is literally seen chasing an ambulance until he comes across North. Apparently, he just uses it to beat the traffic.
- Artistic License: The various cultures depicted. When an 11 year old dreams the whole thing inaccuracies are to be expected.
- Beachcombing: Seen in Hawaii.
- Big Eater: The Tex family.
Pa Tex: Well I reckon we'll wake up early and eat, then we'll dig for oil and eat, then we'll rope some doggies, bust a few broncs and maybe get a bite to eat.
- Black Comedy: Certainly dips into it a lot at the very least.
- Broken Aesop: The film's message is ostensibly about the value of family and accepting one's parents. It does nothing to convince the audience that North had any logic in going back to them.
- Crapsack World: Everyone in the movie aside from North, his mentor figure, and the whitebread family he's with are boorish, insensitive, loud, selfish, ethnocentric, and incapable of showing sincerity. And arguably, none of them are really that much better.
- Critical Research Failure: Just about every depiction of every ethnicity. Justified because it's all in North's imagination and that's all he knows.
- Eagleland: Played straight and inverted. Foreigners and Americans who don't exactly fit Type 1 are shoehorned into Type 2.
- Enfant Terrible: Winchell.
- Fan Disservice: North's crack... that is all.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-Universe — there's nothing on TV in France but Jerry Lewis movies.
- Hollywood Atlas: Most of the segments are horrific pastiches of cultural stereotypes*, including:
- Eskimo Land: The "old people who are no longer of use voluntarily drift out to sea" has been turned into an industrial line.
- Everything Is Big In Texas: To the point that the prospective parents here intend to fatten North up because they pride themselves on having the biggest of everything. And apparently dress like Elvis in his latter days playing Joe Buck in a production of Midnight Cowboy on Ice.
- Gay Paree: Jerry Lewis on all the channels, all the time.
- Hula and Luaus: Needs tourists, and is willing to sink to any advertisement depths to get them.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: "Your Honor... the defense rests."
- Informed Ability: It is stated that North is a prodigy as well as pretty much the perfect child to where other parents use him as a reference (i.e., North keeps his room clean). However, all of these are stated by North himself. Also since he seems to fully believe in all of these racial stereotypes, he is obviously not as smart as stated.
- Innocent Bigot: North seems to be one of these, since his dream is full of broad cultural stereotypes that he appears to take quite seriously. It's not clear if he was meant to come across that way, however.
- Insistent Terminology: North's "crack".
- Karma Houdini: Winchell would've been one if the whole thing had actually happened.
- Large Ham: The Judge.
- Metaphorgotten: "A bird in the hand is always greener than the grass in the other guy's bushes."
- Mood Whiplash: The assassination plot in the final third is awfully dark for a light fantasy.
- Product Placement: A particularly egregious plug for Federal Express.
- Prophetic Names: The evil journalist kid is named Winchell.
- Refuge in Audacity: Hecks yeah.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The basic summarization of North's reaction to learning the Amish family was one of his stops.
- Shoot the Money: Dan Aykroyd and Reba McEntire appear as the stereotypical Texan family, and sing the film's only song, a parody of Bonanza, despite not being a musical (and despite Bonanza actually being set in Nevada).
- Small Name, Big Ego: North, who seems to believe all the parents around him use him as an example of being the perfect son. And through his dream, he seems to believe that he would be emperor of China, people would want to visit Hawaii just because he lives there, and his friend would become rich and powerful just because of the story about him.
- Step Three: Profit: Winchell writes a story about North leaving his parents that cause other parents to be nicer to their kids, and because of that he becomes rich and powerful.
- Take That: This movie was the recipient of one of Roger Ebert's rare "zero stars" ratings, which contained the paragraph: "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." This paragraph would go on to inspire the title of I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, a collection of Ebert's most negative reviews.
- That Reminds Me of a Song: The Texan parents sing a parody of the Bonanza theme song to North.
- Unfortunate Implications: The "all just a dream" ending means that the highly unflattering representations of the different cultures are based entirely on North's mental image of them, and therefore, North is a gigantic fucking racist.
- Not to mention the bit where he has a dream about his adoptive parent putting up a tourist ad* with an octopus pulling down North's trunks and exposing his underage crack to tourists in hope to make them come to Hawaii. What could have happened to him to make him imagine such things in the first place?
- It could have been something as simple as his having seen ads for Coppertone suntan oil. They used to feature a child on the beach, with a dog pulling down the bottom half of her bathing suit and showing her crack. Values Dissonance didn't used to consider that child pornography.
- Unreliable Narrator: All of the background on how smart and popular North is comes from North himself, and includes things he was not present for and could not possibly know. Bruce Willis has a voice-over narration, but his character only gets info from talking to North as well.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: Subverted in the last act, when North realizes his parents were all right after all, even though they don't heap ridiculous praise on him like other parents.
- World Of Pun: A literal example.