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.North
was a massive bomb at the box office and is widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time, having been the subject of many negative reviews, none more so than in a famously scathing review delivered by film critic Roger Ebert
. The film proved a major setback for then-renowned director Rob Reiner, who until then had been a rising star in Hollywood.
Not related to the film El Norte
. This film was also Scarlett Johansson
's film debut. Such humble beginnings
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.
- Description Cut: When it became official that North will divorce his parents, a pair of parents discuss it with their son:
Come on, Andy, his folks are gonna fight it! Mom:
Of course they are. They're not going to take this lying down.
(Cut to next shot where North's parents reading the article and faint. Get it?
- 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 stereotypesnote , 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.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- When describing the Miami heat (the weather, not the team), Bruce Willis says, "Your balls stick to your leg like crazy glue!"
- The lovely sight of Elijah Wood's pale butt. Oh sorry, his "crack".
- Ho is the surname of Hawaii's governor and his wife.
- Plus, there's only one barren spot in the entire state: Mrs. Ho.
- When the Tex dad talks about his late son Buck, he says that it was a "mighty big loss".
- Incredibly Lame Pun: "Your Honor, the defense rests."note
- 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: Big Time!
- 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.
- That Reminds Me of a Song: The Texan parents sing a parody of the Bonanza theme song to North.
- 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.
- World Tour: North travels the world looking for new parents, and the ones he finds are giant stereotypes.