I want to review something bad this time, I thought, and I want to review something really bad, almost so bad it is good. A uniquely stupid film known as North came to mind quickly as I was thinking this.
Most of you might know it as one of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s most loathed films and those of you who have seen it will know why. Here we have jokes at their very worst and racial stereotypes at their most disrespectful. Here we have what I believe is the worst of filmmaker Rob Reiner, who also created This Is Spinal Tap and Stand By Me.
A young Elijah Wood plays North, a child who is fed up with his parents (Jason Alexander and Julia Louise-Dreyfus) who never seem to pay him any attention. What does he do? He gets a lawyer (Jon Lovitz) and takes his parents to court – no kidding – where the judge (Alan Arkin) grants Norht’s wish of leaving his old parents and go around the world to find new ones; he gives them “auditions”, so to speak. All this because his mother and father would not pay attention to him at the dinner table, huh? How do you expect me to like the protagonist if he’s such an ungrateful twit?
Around the world he goes, auditioning parents from many different countries, all of which are almost cartoony in how stereotypical they are. He goes to Texas where his parents are Dan Aykroyd and Reba McEntire and all they do is dress like cowboys, ride horses and eat an awful lot. Har. He goes to Alaska where his parents are Native-American Graham Greene, which is fitting, and Kathy Bates in blackface, which is both plainly stupid and offensive, everyone lives in igloos and sacrifice their elderly (the grandfather is played by Abe Vigoda, sadly enough) because they’ve outlived their usefullness. Har har! In France everthing’s about baguettes, berets and Jerry Lewis. Har har har!
North goes to other places to, each with idiotic ethnic stereotypes worse than the last. In China he’s treated like an emperor, in Africa everyone lives in huts made of grass and I don’t even want to talk about Hawaii. No matter where he goes, North cannot seem to find the right parents for him; he never comes across one single funny joke either. I’m serious, there isn’t one in the entire movie!
Throughout the film, North is being followed around by a mysterious man, played by Bruce Willis, who might be some sort of guardian angel. At one point he is seen wearing an Easter Bunny-costume. I’m baffled as to how Willis could allow any of this to befall him. Did he at first think Reiner was making Donnie Darko? I dunno.
North really is a painful movie; a movie that clearly has less brain cells than I have teeth. Y’know, Bruce Willis is not the only one who mystifies me by allowing himself to be involved with it. Why did Dan Aykroyd do this, for instance? Or Abe Vigoda? Or Alan Arkin? Or, hell – why did Rob Reiner do this?!
Do you remember my Transformers 3 review, where I mentioned how utterly appalled I was by Michael Bay’s stereotypical outlook on the world around him? Well, no matter how cluless Bay may be to how the world works, at least he is no Rob Reiner. And Rob Reiner is no Mel Brooks, hence why none of the stereotypes in North are even slightly amusing.
Rarely are jokes this stupid, offensive and unfunny; rarely are ethnic stereotypes this unpleasant to watch; rarely are characters this unendurable; rarely is a so-called comedy this utterly despicable. There is a twist towards the end that’s so clichéd and asinine that honestly, it made me want to attack the TV with a sledgehammer, but I’m a pretty nice guy so I didn’t.
Screw the trailer! Here, just go and watch Siskel and Ebert’s review: