Rob Reiner has proven that he can get the most out of child actors (Stand By Me) and spin the kind of fairy tales that send the viewer soaring (The Princess Bride). But all his smart instincts go out the window with North, a misfire from moment one, which takes the marginally interesting concept of auditioning new parents and turns it into a chance to make idiots of everyone onscreen. That Elijah Wood's North is fed up with his parents is understandable -- Seinfeld cast members Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are relentlessly irritating in the few moments in which they're not frozen in a "shock coma," on display at the Smithsonian as part of a nationwide children's movement to overthrow their parents. It's that kind of movie, full of bizarre constructs that would be blatantly mean-spirited if they weren't candy-coated by Reiner's storybook tone. The child actor picked to spearhead North's political movement, Matthew McCurley, is insufferably smarmy and annoying, an over-the-top maniacal villain shrunk into a child's body. His murderous ambition alone should remove this from the realm of family film, if the awful ethnic characterizations of North's parental candidates weren't enough to do so. The film is an equal opportunity offender, providing shallow caricatures of Texans, Alaskans, Hawaiians, Amish, Chinese, and African tribesmen. If any of this were at least funny, that might be something, but it's a pretty bankrupt day in the writing department when North spends his time in Paris watching Jerry Lewis with a pair of cigarette smokers clad in berets.
by Derek Armstrong review