North (1994)

dir. Rob Reiner

North already hinges on a stupid premise: a kid named North (Elijah Wood) is fed-up of being underappreciated by his parents, so he legally “divorces” them. Nevermind that the parents demonstrably lavish all sorts of attention and affection on North – the film’s opening credits are set to a montage of his many many toys, for God’s sake, plus he clearly is given resources to pursue all manner of hobbies, and he always has food to eat and a warm, giant home to live in. Yet apparently, because the parents sometimes argue and ignore North, their egregious negligence must be punished. So off North goes, in search of new parents to live with. This all leads to a bizarrely diabolical child-journalist to lead a kind of fascist uprising of children divorcing their parents, with North as the movement’s figurehead – but this isn’t actually the focus of the film. No, North‘s focus seems to be on stereotyping and insulting as many cultures as humanly possible. The Texans love to eat food and get fat. The Hawaiians have low self-esteem (which somehow also takes the form of horrible jokes about infertility and paedophilia). The Alaskans send their elderly out to sea to die. The Amish all have the same names and don’t use electricity. In former Zaire, no one wears clothes. In China, North is immediately worshipped as a lord. In Paris, everyone drinks wine and watches 24/7 Jerry Lewis. All throughout, Bruce Willis pops up as North’s pseudo-guardian angel, making trite observations and narrating North’s winding journey to realising, even when he’s with a seemingly perfect (white and conservative) family in New York, that there’s no place like home. Why there needed to be such a series of shockingly offensive caricatures to get North to this point is anyone’s guess. It’s hard to understand what the ultimate point is really supposed to be – “There’s no place like home”, sure, but is the result that your home is where your biological family is? Is North fundamentally anti-adoption? Regardless, the film manages to do the ultimate cop-out with an “it was all a dream” shtick, which boosts the general, overwhelming feeling that this film would be better off had it never happened at all.

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