Picks and Pans Review: North

UPDATED 08/08/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/08/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

Elijah Wood, Bruce Willis

This odious comedy has a cast of stars in roles that amount to little more than cameos (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Alan Arkin, Kathy Bates, Dan Aykroyd, Kelly McGillis, Reba McEntire, John Ritter, Richard Belzer) and something to offend almost everybody: Texans, Alaskans, Hawaiians, women, senior citizens and the Amish.

Wood is a star sixth grader who shines in the classroom, on the ball field and on the stage (catch his Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof), keeps his room Trappist tidy and doesn't eat between meals. He has only two problems: Mom (the undistinguished Louis-Dreyfus) and Dad (Alexander in a reprise of his Seinfeld persona) are so caught up in their careers (she's a travel agent; he's a quality-control inspector for a pants company) that they don't pay much mind to their son. Egged on by the weaselly editor of the school paper (Matthew McCurley) and a dim lawyer (Jon Lovitz), Wood goes to court, declares that his folks don't appreciate him—and wins the right to choose more exemplary parents. The search takes him to, among other locales, the Lone Star State, where Aykroyd and McEntire, who have recently lost a son, bribe Wood with a deed to the Houston Astros and heaping plates of food. In Hawaii, Lauren Tom and Keone Young (who can't have children) unveil a bizarre plan to make the unwilling Wood famous. There's also a stop in Alaska, where Bates and Graham Greene introduce Wood to the local custom of sending the elderly out on ice floes to die. Wood keeps finding mothers and fathers with fearsome flaws. And everywhere he goes, he runs into the guardian-angel-like Willis in such guises as ranch hand and truck driver. Meanwhile the conniving McCurley has got America's youth into a lather and is urging them to follow North's example. This flat fantasy never rises above the use of stereotypes (Texans as buffoons, Eskimos as savages) in its hunt for laughs. To no avail. Practically before it gets going, North goes South. (PG)

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