North (1994 film)

North is a 1994 American comedy-drama adventure film directed by Rob Reiner. The story is based on the 1984 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. The cast includes Elijah Wood in the title role, with Jon Lovitz, Jason Alexander, Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Faith Ford, Graham Greene, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Reba McEntire, John Ritter, and Abe Vigoda. Bruce Willis narrates and plays several different roles throughout the film, and a 9-year-old Scarlett Johansson appears briefly in her film debut. The film was shot in Hawaii, Alaska, California, South Dakota, New Jersey, and New York. It was a box office bomb, grossing just $12 million against its $40 million budget,[4][5] and received largely negative reviews from critics, with some calling it one of the worst films ever made.

Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed byRob Reiner
Screenplay byAlan Zweibel
Andrew Scheinman
Based onNorth: 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
Produced byRob Reiner
Alan Zweibel
CinematographyAdam Greenberg
Edited byRobert Leighton
Music byMarc Shaiman
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • July 22, 1994 (1994-07-22)
Running time
87 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$50[2]-40 million[3]
Box office$12 million[4]


Skilled in academics, sports, and drama, and widely admired for his good work and obedient attitude, North feels unappreciated by his own parents. One day, while finding solace in a living room display at a mall, he complains to the Easter Bunny—a man in a pink bunny suit—that his parents, out of all the adults in his neighborhood, seem unable to see his value. The Easter Bunny recommends that North simply explain his feelings to his parents, but North says being unappreciated by them means they don't deserve him.

Aided and encouraged by his friend Winchell, who works on the school paper, North plots to "divorce" his parents, hiring ambulance-chasing lawyer Arthur Belt to file the papers. The announcement of his divorce greatly shocks North's parents, leaving them unable to object when Judge Buckle grants North's petition, giving North one summer to find new parents or go to an orphanage.

North's first stop is Texas, where his parental candidates, Ma and Pa Tex, promise to use their wealth to fulfill North's desires. In a musical number (set to the Bonanza theme), they explain that their first son, Buck, died in a stampede and they plan to use North to replace Buck, planning out his entire life in advance, including his future wife. Gabby, a sharpshooting cowboy (also the man in the Easter Bunny suit), presents North with a souvenir from his act—a silver dollar with a bullet hole shot through its center—and notes that North is unhappy with the Texes because he wishes to be appreciated for who he is, not made into someone else, advising 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, believing that North's presence in Hawaii will attract mainlanders. To North's horror, the governor unveils a tourism campaign that prominently features North's bare buttocks, similar to the classic Coppertone ad. On the beach, a tourist with a metal detector (also the man in the bunny suit) explains that parents should not use children for personal gain.

In Alaska, he settles into an Inuit village, where his prospective parents send their elderly grandfather out to sea on an ice floe to die with dignity. As the long, dark winter arrives, North realizes that his summer is almost up.

Meanwhile, his now-catatonic real parents are put in a museum display. His quest has inspired children worldwide to leave their parents and hire Belt and Winchell, both now rich and powerful.

North's next family is Amish, but the lack of electricity and other conveniences quickly disappoints him. His experiences in Zaire, China, and Paris are equally fruitless. Back in America, he finds the Nelsons, an ideal all-American family who give North attention and appreciation, but he still is unsatisfied.

In despair, North finds himself in New York City, where Winchell and Belt, fearing their lucrative business will fail, plot to assassinate him. On the run, North receives a videotape from his newly revived parents begging for his forgiveness and his return home. Standup comedian Joey Fingers (the same man in the bunny suit) encourages him. At the airport, a mob of kids who have followed his example block his path, angry about his returning to his parents, forcing North to ship himself home in a FedEx box. The FedEx delivery driver is again the man in the Easter Bunny suit. North, recognizing him from his other appearances, asks if he is his guardian angel. The man denies meeting North, but as a FedEx representative, he feels like a guardian of important items.

North is delivered to his house prior to the deadline, but as he runs toward his parents, an assassin takes aim. As he squeezes the trigger, North awakens in the mall, now empty. The Easter Bunny takes him home, where his parents, who have been worried during his absence, greet him warmly. It has all been a dream, but in his pocket, North discovers Gabby's silver dollar. North says he has always had it, "for good luck", and goes inside as his parents agree to bring him dinner in bed.



Elijah Wood was cast as the lead in 1993. The movie was shot in New York with additional shooting in Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Alaska(Prince William Sound and several glaciers[6]). John Candy was initially cast as Pa Tex before dropping out and being replaced by Dan Akyroyd.[7]


North has been called one of the worst films ever made. On review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, North received a rating of 14% based on 35 reviews, with an average rating of 3.18/10. The site's critics' consensus reads, "Laden with schmaltz and largely bereft of evident narrative purpose, North represents an early major disappointment from previously sure-handed director Rob Reiner."[8] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B-" on scale of A to F.[9]

Kenneth Turan stated in his review "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."[10] Turan also asked "How could director Rob Reiner, whose touch for what pleases a mass audience is usually unfailing, have strayed this far?"[10] Leonard Klady of Variety described the film as a "noble misfire" and "that unique breed of misconceived entertainment that only a filmmaker of talent is capable of making."[11] Joe Brown of The Washington Post called the film "a gentle, harmless and rather pedestrian fantasy."[12] Janet Maslin of The New York Times was somewhat more positive, writing that the film "doesn't always work, but much of it is clever in amusingly unpredictable ways."[13]

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. 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?'[14]

Siskel & Ebert's reviewsEdit

"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.[15]

Film critic Roger Ebert noted 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.[16]

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.[17]

Writer Alan Zweibel described the review as "[E]mbarrassing. And hurtful", and stated it was repeatedly quoted to him, his wife, and his son (who had inspired the book North). In an encounter with Ebert years later, Zweibel jokingly said "And I just have to tell you, Roger, that that sweater you're wearing? I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate that sweater."[18] He also keeps a clipping of it in his wallet, which he reads at public events.[19]

Ebert and his co-host on Siskel and Ebert, Gene Siskel, both pronounced it the worst film of 1994, an opinion they each came to independently.[20] 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."[21] 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 the 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."[21] Siskel added "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 finished his statement with "Any subject could be done well, this is just trash, Roger."[21] 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."[22]

Box officeEdit

The film grossed only $7 million in the United States and Canada and $12.2 million worldwide, making it one of the worst performing films of the year given its large budget.[4][3]

Year-end listsEdit

Awards and nominationsEdit

Award Category Subject Result
Golden Raspberry Awards 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
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Picture Won
Worst Actor Bruce Willis Won
Saturn Awards Best Performance by a Younger Actor Elijah Wood Nominated
Young Artist Awards Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film Nominated


  1. ^ "NORTH (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. May 5, 1994. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "North (1994)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c "World's Champs & Chumps". Variety. February 13, 1995. p. 7.
  5. ^ Gabbi Shaw (February 27, 2017). "The biggest box office flop from the year you were born". Insider. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "North (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  9. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Turan, Kenneth (July 22, 1994). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'North': In Search of Its Inner Child : Rob Reiner's fable focuses on a fourth-grader who seems to have an enviable life, but decides he needs new parents. His search for alternative scenarios takes him from Alaska to Zaire". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  11. ^ Klady, Leonard (July 18–24, 1994). "Film Reviews: North". Variety. p. 38-39.
  12. ^ Brown, Joe (July 22, 1994). "'North's' Poor Direction". The Washington Post. 41.
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 22, 1994). "Rob Reiner Directs A Contemporary Fable". The New York Times. C3.
  14. ^ "Rob Reiner". Archive of American Television. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 22, 1994). "North movie review & film summary (1994)". Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (August 11, 2005). "Ebert's Most Hated - Roger Ebert's Journal - Roger Ebert". Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  17. ^ I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie,; accessed August 23, 2015.
  18. ^ Zweibel, Alan (April 9, 2013). "Roger and Me". The New Yorker.
  19. ^ Zweibel on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, November 14, 2008
  20. ^ "Worst of 1994". Siskel And Ebert Movie Reviews. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  21. ^ a b c "The Client, Lassie, It Could Happen to You, North, Barcelona, 1994". Siskel And Ebert Movie Reviews. Retrieved May 17, 2020.
  22. ^ Richard Roeper, 10 Sure Signs a Movie Character is Doomed and Other Surprising Movie Lists, New York: Hyperion Books, 2003, pp. 66-67.
  23. ^ "Worst of 1994". Siskel And Ebert Movie Reviews. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  24. ^ "Worst of 1994". Siskel And Ebert Movie Reviews. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  25. ^ Arnold, William (December 30, 1994). "'94 Movies: Best and Worst". Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Final ed.). p. 20.
  26. ^ Pickle, Betsy (December 30, 1994). "Searching for the Top 10... Whenever They May Be". Knoxville News-Sentinel. p. 3.
  27. ^ Lovell, Glenn (December 25, 1994). "The Past Picture Show the Good, the Bad and the Ugly -- a Year Worth's of Movie Memories". San Jose Mercury News (Morning Final ed.). p. 3.
  28. ^ Craft, Dan (December 30, 1994). "Success, Failure and a Lot of In-between; Movies '94". The Pantagraph. p. B1.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Stinker Award for Worst Picture
1994 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards
Succeeded by