CINEMA / On cinema

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What to say about Rob Reiner's North? Intended as a comedy it is instead a study of fear. And those generating that fear turn out to be the picture's nominal audience: children.

Well, not children exactly. Premature adults is a better description - children whose media-fed sophisication has transformed them into yet another persecuted minority confronting the status quo: children who demand rights, children who fight for themselves. . . as the divorce rate rockets.

Indeed, North (right) is about one boy (Elijah Wood) and his attempts to separate himself from his parents, a legal precedent the film knows has occurred in real life. Yet North simultaneously tries to dismiss this truth as fantasy. Desperate to believe in the innocence of childhood - despite the little dears increasingly resembling adults (cynical fashion victims, snotty computer junkies, bitter and twisted sexual know-it-alls) Reiner saddles Wood with a guardian angel friend played by Bruce Willis. This device helps the movie play less like an indictment and more like a fable. North wants to re-constitute the detonated nuclear family yet the subtext is a variation on Freud's most famous question. For the film fairly shrieks 'What do children want?'

The lack of an answer might account for Hollywood's ambivalence. The child star may be in vogue but remember what happens to the modern kid in Jurassic Park: the T Rex comes for them first. And everyone forgets that adults are actually trying to kill Macauley Culkin in the Home Alone flicks. Which could explain why his next film is entitled Getting Even With Dad. That's a 'comedy' too.

(Photograph omitted)

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