FREEZE FRAMES

A weekly update of film releases

* NORTH - The season's most imaginative comedy spins the unpredictable fantasy of a gifted 11-year-old named North, who can't figure out why his parents only think about their own problems. He dreams of improving his life by ``divorcing'' them and searching the world for a household that will value him as much as he deserves. Also present is a less lovable fourth-grader who wants to manipulate North's adventure for his own power-mad purposes.

Scurrying from Texas to Hawaii to Alaska and beyond, the movie shows little regard for fashionable attitudes toward humor as it pokes fun at everything from African clothing and Eskimo traditions to New York nightclubs and the French passion for Jerry Lewis movies. Although it has more clever ideas than actual laughs, the screenplay by Alan Zweibel and Andrew Scheinman packs more on-target social satire than any film in recent memory, and zesty performances keep it clicking along at a rapid pace.

Elijah Wood fulfills the promise he showed in ``The Adventures of Huck Finn,'' and newcomer Matthew McCurley is a bundle of energy as his self-serving pal. Other standouts include Alan Arkin as a pompous judge and Bruce Willis as a sort of guardian angel who helps North find where he really belongs. Directed by Rob Reiner. (Rated PG)

* THE CROW - A rock musician returns from the dead and wreaks revenge on the bad dudes who killed him. Based on an underground comic book, this lurid thriller is long on nasty shocks but short on spontaneity, intelligence, and good acting. (The star, Brandon Lee, was killed by an loaded prop gun toward the end of filming. He was the son of martial-arts hero Bruce Lee.) ``The Crow'' is directed by Australian filmmaker Alex Proyas in his American feature debut. (Rated R)

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