Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#70b North (1994) (Colin)

Our next movie has a cast which, on paper at least, should mean that it is going to be an absolute cracker.  They include:
Elijah Wood, Bruce Willis, Jon Lovitz, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Jason Alexander and Scarlett Johanson, (in her first film role).
It is also directed by Rob Reiner who has been involved with great movies such as Stand by Me, This is Spinal Tap and A Few Good Men.  He was even in the recent hugely successful film, The Wolf of Wall Street.  It would be fair to say, that Reiner has an amazing success rate when involved in a movie.
So we should be in good hands.  The inclusion of this movie was obviously an oversight and somehow it must have slipped into the top 100 Bad Movies list whilst we were out making a cup of tea and a sandwich.  Naughty movie, don’t do it again.
So with nothing to fear, we sat down and watched the next film on our list, #70b North (1994).

North, (Elijah Wood), is one of those kids who is good at everything and bad at nothing, (ie very annoying).  He is revered by his peers and adults alike, however, North feels that his parents, (Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus), do not appreciate him.  This worries and stresses North to the point where, at dinner, he suffers a panic attack.
Desperate for some ‘me time’ to think things over, North goes to his local DFS, (which surprisingly has a sale on at the moment).  At DFS he bumps into all action hero Bruce Willis, who, in his butchest role yet, is dressed in a pink fluffy Easter bunny costume.  Willis advises North to patch things up with his parents.  North considers this for 5 seconds and then divorces his parents after he decides to listen to friend and school paper journalist, Winchell, (Matthew McCurley).
Shocked to the point of frozen rigid, (ironic as by now I’m bored to point of frozen rigid), North’s parents are wheeled away.  The judge, (Alan Arkin), then tells North and his lawyer, Arthur Belt, (Jon Lovitz), of the terms of his divorce.  He must find suitable new parents by the end of the summer or it’s to the mine with him, (or maybe the orphanage, I’m not a social worker).
The film then turns into an 80 mins round the world trip of hideous stereotyping, (but more on that later), as North searches for new parents.  Texas, Hawaii, Alaska, China and France are all visited without success until North finds the ‘perfect’ family in New York.  However, this perfect family does not fill the void left by his real parents and North realises he has made a mistake and heads home as fast as possible to re-unite with his parents before the deadline of summer’s end.
In the meantime, Winchell and Arthur Belt have grown very rich as they have led a movement,  inspired by North, for kids to threaten divorce from their parents in order to gain power.  The news that North wants to go back to his parents is a bit of a downer to Winchell’s evil plans and so tries to assassinate North.  On the stroke of summer’s end, (1 second or so to go in fact), North is very nearly re-united with his parents when a gunshot rings out…….
North awakes and it was all a dream.  The end, (seriously?!?!).

This movie is so bad, that it really is difficult to know where to begin.  First off, there is North himself.  He really is the most annoying, self-centred, conceited character I have ever had the misfortune to see in a movie.  I have no sympathy for his ‘me, me, me’ attitude and quite frankly, his parents were better off without him.  There is nothing to like about him and watching him for 90 minutes forcing people to justify why they are good enough for him, just made my blood boil.  If the you can not make the audience relate to or even like the lead character in your movie, then you’ve lost before you’ve started.
Then there’s the pink Easter bunny in the room, Bruce Willis.  He is the narrator, but can’t seem to read and emit any emotion at the same time.  He plays a cowboy called Gabby in Texas, a sledge rider in Alaska, a FedEx driver and many others and each is one-dimensional and uninteresting.
It must be difficult to play many differing characters in a movie, I get that, but Willis is North’s guardian angel, so he only really has to play one character, but for some reason he does not pull it off.  I can only suspect he read the script, thought, ‘OK, not great, but I can work with that’, turned up for the first day of shooting, was forced to wear a pink Easter bunny suit and thought, ‘Ah crap’ and promptly sulked throughout the rest of production.
It’s not only Willis who seems to struggle however, the whole cast looks uninterested in what is, quite frankly, a poor script and a mish-mash disaster of a movie.  There is nothing for the actors to work on apart from a bunch of cliched nonsense, a theme of which is prevalent throughout the movie.
The stereotyping of the places and countries in which North visits, is staggeringly bad and stuck firmly in the past.  Instead of introducing us to interesting characters along the way, we are bombarded with wave after wave of outdated, lazily written nonsense and that, without a fact, is the biggest problem with this movie.
In Texas, potential dad, Dan Ackroyd, yee-haws his way through the script.  Everything is big, has cow horns and there is an awful version of the Bonanza theme tune about fattening everyone up, digging for oil all day and everything being bigger.  It is feeble and quite insulting.

This carries on in Hawaii, (everyone, off course, has Hawaiian shirts, garlands and say aloha ad-nauseum);  in Alaska, (where everyone is an Inuit, lives in Igloos and sends their elderly off to die on a floating iceberg, (in itself unfounded lazy rumour, stereotyping and nonsense)); and in France, (everyone off course wears berets, drinks wine and laughs at people pulling faces on TV).
During our live tweet, I remarked that the way these stereotypes are going, I really hope they do not visit Pakistan or China.  North, off course, then goes to China!  I watched this part of the movie through my hands as I dreaded what was next.  Fortunately the movie only took the mickey out of ‘Chinese haircuts’ and did not include 1 billion Benny Hills.
So the lesson to be learnt here is that even an all star cast with a hugely successful director at the helm, can not save a movie which has a lead character you despise, actors who are underused and lazy stereotypical characters who belong in a Bernard Manning set. 
This film is based on a book called ‘North, The tale of a 9 year old boy who becomes a free agent and travels the world in search of the Perfect Parents’, which is almost as pretentious as North himself.  If they ever decide to make a book of the movie, perhaps they could call it ‘North, the tale of an all star cast and a successful director who listened to their agents and created a crap movie when it should have been near perfect’ or the snappier ‘North, the movie which went South very fast’.