Wow! First Penny Marshall and now Rob Reiner. It looks like sitcom-stars-turned-film-directors are really hitting rock bottom as of late. "North", a film about a young boy who decides to audition new parents when his real ones fail to pay him the proper amount of attention, is stylized to the point that it is insignificant as either a cautionary tale or your basic "feel good" summer flick.
North (Elijah Wood) is about as perfect as a kid can get. He eats all his vegetables, brushes after every meal, and looks both ways before crossing the street. The problem he sees is that his parents are so wrapped in their work and each other that they don't spend enough time with him. On the advice of the editor of his school's newspaper (Mathew McCurley), North decides to become a free agent and see what kinds of parents might be interested in having him as their kid. First he wins approval of the court to undertake such an ambition, which isn't hard seeing as how his parents were rendered catatonic by the news that he wanted new parents. The ruling says that North has until the end of summer vacation to either find a new family, be in the arms of his real parents or be sent to an orphanage.
After securing the services of an ambulance-chasing lawyer (Jon Lovitz), North finds himself the recipient of a huge amount of mail. Those that include first-class air fare are given the highest consideration and soon he is zipping around the world trying to find the perfect pair of parents. He travels take him to Texas, Hawaii, Alaska as well as to the African continent. But in each family, there is something not quite right. Either they want him to fill the shoes of another child, their customs are just too foreign, or their is some other price to pay.
Meanwhile, the precocious editor has undertaken a massive campaign where kids now run the show at home because their parents are too afraid that they will do what North is doing. As the clock starts to run out on North's quest, he realizes what the audience has known from the film's first scene: that his own mom & dad are best. Of course, getting back to them in time is another matter.
"North" is a gratingly affected fantasy told entirely from a kids point-of-view. None of the characters, not even North himself, embodies more than a one-dimensional personality. Bruce Willis, who shows up to crack wise every now an then as various characters, is about as annoying as is physically possible for a human being to be. Who would have thought that the director of "When Harry Met Sally..." and "The Princess Bride" could blunder this badly? "North" is as artificial and lifeless as a bowl of plastic flowers.