North

This awesomely idiotic kiddie comedy is the worst movie John Hughes never made, a witless exercise in adult-bashing that seemed to require masochism in the few parents dumb enough to take their kids to it. Elijah Wood, usually fresh enough to triumph over rotten material but not this time, is North, a perfect boy disenchanted with his uncaring parents (Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus). He seeks a “divorce” from them and travels the world in search of better parents. This gives director Rob Reiner many opportunities to indulge in crass stereotyping: in addition to North’s materialistic, hypochondriacal Jewish parents, we have Dan Aykroyd and Reba McIntire as hee-hawing Texans; Keone Young and Lauren Tom as opportunistic Hawaiians; Graham Greene and Kathy Bates as Eskimos who send old Grandpa (Abe Vigoda) off on an ice floe to die (yeah, exactly the sort of comedy one looks for in movies for kids); and John Ritter and Faith Ford as clones of 1950s TV parents.

Meanwhile, North’s scheming schoolchum Winchell (the preternaturally obnoxious Matthew McCurley) gets kids across the country to overthrow their parents, with the help of ambulance chaser Jon Lovitz. Bruce Willis, in a variety of costumes ranging from the Easter Bunny to a FedEx driver, is North’s guardian angel, who eventually leads him back into the loving arms of his suddenly sensitive parents. That this is all a dream doesn’t make North any less stupid, boring, offensive, or unfunny. The movie not only ridicules its hopeful adoptive parents (it even makes light of the Texans’ losing their son in a stampede) but says that a good way to make your parents appreciate you is to worry them sick. A preposterous bomb from start to finish, its only merit is furnishing the title of one of Roger Ebert’s funnier books.

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