A young boy divorces himself from his parents and with the help of a guardian, Bruce Willis dressed as a rabbit, goes in search of new ones. He travels across the world, meeting as many potentials as possible, otherwise he must return to his original inattentive parents.
North is to Rob Reiner what Toys was to Barry Levmson: an idiosyncratic and extravagant fable that will have the more literal-minded fans of the director's unpredictable but reliably popular oeuvre fleeing for the exits holding their noses. Contrary kooks will remain, however, engaged by its eccentricities.
Elijah Wood stars as the 11-year-old eponymous hero, a perfect and talented boy unappreciated by his ordinary parents. Egged on by Winchell (Mathew McCurley), a Machiavellian classmate, North successfully sues his parents for "divorce" and embarks on an international odyssey trying out prospective adoptive parents, who range from Dan Aykroyd and Reba McEntire as vulgar Texas oil tycoons, to Kelly McGillis and Alexander Godunov, back in their Witness costumes as an Amish mom and dad, to Graham Greene and Kathy Bates as an Eskimo twosome.
Indulgent, very American and at pains to score points on family, identity, esteem, and the roles of parents and children, this is directed with Reiner's customary assurance but careens between surreal satire of American domestic sitcoms, film lore (where else do North's eventual dream family dwell but in Bedford Falls) and very broad comedy that will strike many as simply weird. Witness the use of Bruce Willis as a narrator/guardian angel figure who springs up on North's bizarre globetrot after being introduced wearing a pink Easter bunny suit.
Co-produced (with Reiner) and co-written by Alan Zweibel, upon whose novel this is based, North is a light, frequently witty outing, but may prove to be the most widely resistible of Reiner's outrageous comedies. The world, it seems, has become too prosaic for a piece Preston Sturges would have appreciated.
This film goes beyond expectations in the weirdness stakes, with Bruce Willis in a rabbit costume proving hard to get over. But Reiner manages to take in a range of influences, meaning this film isn't just out for the kids' approval. It is successful in parts although it may prove just too experimental for some tastes, which from a kids' movie is asking a bit much.