Review: “Moonrise Kingdom”

If there was ever a writer/director who could capture all the awkwardness of a middle school couple in love, it would be Wes Anderson.

Sam (Jared Gilman) is a loner boy scout with less-than-adequate foster parents. Suzy (Kara Hayward) is a “troubled child” who loves to read fantasy adventures. Together they make the perfect pair in this quirky little comedy set on a small New England island.

After meeting at a church’s rendition of “Noah’s Ark,” the two become pen pals and eventually decide to run away together. Enlisting in the search for Sam and Suzy are her parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Sam’s troop master (Edward Norton) and the island’s only police presence (Bruce Willis).

The first thing I can say about Wes Anderson’s films is that you probably love them or hate them. Each of his films have a certain visual style and their own brand of comedy, so you either think he is a marvelous filmmaker or a hack that is bent on remaking his own movies over and over again. I lean more towards the former.

The film is set in 1965 and, as such, kind of looks like it’s being shot through an Instagram filter. Instead of a wannabe photographer behind the camera, Anderson and his crew guide each scene with expertise. He should have the period down well considering most of his movies either take place in that decade or are heavily influenced by it.

Once you look past the visual elements of the film, what really stands out are the characters and the script. If you’re into the sort of awkward dry humor found in Anderson’s films, you should love both. Edward Norton and Bruce Willis really deliver in this film. Norton is a “Golly gee willikers!!” type who gets a lot of assistance from his troop of Khaki Scouts throughout the film. He and Willis play like parental figures for Sam as the search for he and Suzy marches on.

While these two are great, the film’s leads are excellent given the fact that “Moonrise Kingdom” is the first work either has received. Their characters may be outrageous at times, wielding left-handed scissors against attacking Khaki Scouts or trekking through the forest, but there is something innocent and sweet about their relationship. Some people may get a little weirded out by a certain scene on the beach involving second base, but the kids keep it pretty G-rated the rest of the time.

“Moonrise Kingdom” isn’t your typical comedy for today’s market like “Ted” or “Project X.” but for people who like the Wes Anderson brand, it’s a great time. I’d put it right up there with “Rushmore” or “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.”

Grade: A-

Next up, I’m reviewing the Oliver Stone film “Savages.” Hint: It’s not a glowing endorsement. After that I’ll get around to the Batman reviews I mentioned in my last post. I’m thinking one post on a handful of animated films, one on each film from 1989-1997 and possibly the Nolan films. More on that later.

Happy viewing.

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