North (1994 film)

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Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed by Rob Reiner
Produced by Rob Reiner
Alan Zweibel
Screenplay by Alan Zweibel
Andrew Scheinman
Based on North: The Tale of a 9-Year-Old Boy Who Becomes a Free Agent and Travels the World in Search of the Perfect Parents
by Alan Zweibel
Narrated by Bruce Willis
Music by Marc Shaiman
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Edited by Robert Leighton
Distributed by Columbia Pictures (US)
Rank Film Distributors (UK)
Release date
  • July 22, 1994 (1994-07-22)
Running time
87 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[2]
Box office $7.1 million[2]

North is a 1994 American comedy film directed by Rob Reiner and starring an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood, Jon Lovitz, Jason Alexander, Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Faith Ford, Graham Greene, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Reba McEntire, John Ritter, and Abe Vigoda, with cameos by Bruce Willis and a 9 year old Scarlett Johansson (in her film debut). It was shot in Hawaii, Alaska, California, South Dakota, New Jersey, and New York. The story is based on the novel North: The Tale of a 9-Year-Old Boy Who Becomes a Free Agent and Travels the World in Search of the Perfect Parents by Alan Zweibel, who wrote the screenplay and has a minor role in the film.


North is a child prodigy, skilled in academics, sports, and drama, and admired by many for his good work and obedient attitude, but ignored by his own parents. One day, while finding solace in a living room display at a mall, North confides to a benevolent man in an Easter Bunny suit that his parents do not appreciate his obvious talents. The Easter Bunny suggests that North simply tell his parents how he feels; but North retorts that they do not deserve him. With the help and encouragement of his friend Winchell, he hires the ambulance-chasing lawyer Arthur Belt to divorce him from his parents. The divorce filing takes North’s parents completely by surprise, and renders them comatose. As such, they cannot object when Judge Buckle gives North one summer to find new parents.

North's first stop is Texas, where his new parents attempt to fatten him up like their own late son, Buck, who died in a stampede. They then stage a musical number about the other horrible plans they have for him. Gabby, a sharpshooting cowboy, presents North with a souvenir from his act—a silver dollar with a bullet hole through its center—and advises him to move on.

His next stop is Hawaii, where Governor and Mrs. Ho, who cannot have children of their own, are eager to adopt him. North is overjoyed; but the Governor unveils a new billboard, part of the state’s campaign to encourage mainlanders to move to Hawaii, featuring North in a mortifying pose. On the beach, a tourist with a metal detector explains that parents should not rely on children for their own personal gain.

In Alaska, North settles into an Inuit village, where his potential parents send their elderly grandfather out to sea on an ice floe, as a form of euthanasia. Meanwhile, his real parents, still comatose, are put on display in a museum. The publicity generated by North’s quest has inspired children around the world to hire Belt and Winchell, who are rapidly becoming rich and powerful.

North’s next parental candidates are Amish, but he is quickly discouraged by the size of their family (and the lack of electricity). Visits to Zaire, China and Paris are equally fruitless. At last, back in America, he finds the Nelsons, who give North the attention and appreciation he craves; but he still is not happy. "The Nelsons are good folks,” says a benevolent sleigh driver. “They're just not your folks."

In despair, North finds himself in New York City, where Winchell and Belt, fearing the demise of their lucrative business, plot to assassinate him. On the run, North receives a videotape from his revived parents begging him to forgive them and return home. Benevolent standup comedian Joey Fingers encourages him to go: "A bird in the hand is always greener than the grass under the other guy's bushes." Assassins are watching the airport, so North ships himself home in a FedEx box. As he runs toward his parents, a hit man takes aim. As he squeezes the trigger, North awakens in the mall, now empty. The Easter Bunny takes him home, where he is greeted warmly by his parents. It has all been a dream—but in his pocket, North discovers Gabby’s silver dollar with the hole through the middle.



On review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, North received a rating of 15% based on 33 reviews, with an average rating of 3.3/10.[3]

North has been called one of the worst films ever made, earning $7,182,747 for a budget of $40 million.[2] Kenneth Turan, in his review, stated "The problem overall is not so much that the humor, especially in the parent-tryout situations, is forced, but that it simply is not there at all. So little is going on in this mildest of fantasies that it is hard to even guess what kinds of emotional effects were aimed at in the first place."[4] Turan also asked "How could director Rob Reiner, whose touch for what pleases a mass audience is usually unfailing, have strayed this far?"[4]

North was a multiple nominee at the 15th Golden Raspberry Awards in six categories including Worst Picture and Worst Director for Rob Reiner.

In an interview with Archive of American Television, Reiner defended the film, saying "I loved doing it, and some of the best jokes I ever had in a movie, are in that movie." He also added: "I made this little fable, and people got mad at me, because, you know, I had done When Harry Met Sally..., and Misery, and A Few Good Men, and everybody said 'Oh, it should be a more important kind of movie.' I said, 'Why? Why can't you just make a little slice of a fable or something?'"[5]

Siskel & Ebert's review[edit]

"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."

Roger Ebert's review of North.[6]

Film critic Roger Ebert seemed especially baffled by North, noting that Wood and especially Reiner had both previously made much better films. He suggested that the film was so poorly written that even the best child actor would look bad in it, and viewed it as "some sort of lapse" on Reiner's part. Ebert awarded North a rare zero-star rating, and even 20 years later it remained on his list of most hated films.[7]

Comedian Richard Belzer, who appeared in North, goaded Reiner into reading aloud some of the review at Reiner's roast; Reiner jokingly insisted that "if you read between the lines, [the review] isn't really that bad." An abridged version of the remark quoted above became the title of a 2000 book by Ebert, I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie, a compilation of reviews of films most disliked by Ebert.[8]

Ebert and his co-host on Siskel and Ebert, Gene Siskel, both pronounced it the worst film of 1994 — a decision they each came to independently.[9] In their original review, Ebert called it "one of the most thoroughly hateful movies in recent years. A movie that makes me cringe even when I'm sitting here thinking about it." He later added, "I hated this movie as much as any movie we have ever reviewed in the 19 years we've been doing this show. I hated it because of the premise, which seems shockingly cold-hearted, and because this premise is being suggested to kids as children's entertainment and because everybody in this movie was vulgar and stupid, and because the jokes weren't funny and because most of the characters were obnoxious and because of the phony attempt to add a little pseudo-hip philosophy with a Bruce Willis character." Siskel continued by saying "I think you gotta hold Rob Reiner's feet to the fire here. I mean, he's the guy in charge, he's saying this is entertainment, it's deplorable. There isn't a gag that works. You couldn't write worse jokes if I told you to write worse jokes. The ethnic stereotyping is appalling, it's embarrassing, you feel unclean as you're sitting there. It's junk. First class junk!" and concluded the review by saying "Any subject could be done well, this is just trash, Roger."[10] Ebert's future co-host on Ebert and Roeper, Richard Roeper, would later go on to list North as one of the 40 worst movies he's ever seen, stating, "Of all the films on this list, North may be the most difficult to watch from start to finish. I've tried twice and failed. Do yourself a favor and don't even bother. Life is too short."[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Razzie Award Worst Actor Bruce Willis Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Dan Aykroyd Nominated
Worst Supporting Actress Kathy Bates Nominated
Worst Screenplay Andrew Scheinman Nominated
Alan Zweibel Nominated
Worst Picture Nominated
Rob Reiner Nominated
Worst Director Nominated


  1. ^ "NORTH (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1994-05-05. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  2. ^ a b c "North (1994)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  3. ^, "North", accessed July 2, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Turan, Kenneth (July 22, 1994). "Movie Review: North". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 20, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Rob Reiner". Archive of American Television. Retrieved 2016-11-14. 
  6. ^ Roger Ebert (1994-07-22). "Ebert reviews North". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie,; accessed August 23, 2015.
  9. ^ DuPree, Don (director). "The Worst Films of 1994" (January 6, 1995). Television: Siskel & Ebert. Burbank: Buena Vista Television. [1]
  10. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Richard Roeper, 10 Sure Signs a Movie Character is Doomed and Other Surprising Movie Lists, New York: Hyperion Books, 2003, pp. 66-67.

External links[edit]