Director Wes Anderson makes very specific films for very specific audiences. He’s got a way of going about directing his films that just doesn’t click with everyone. I’m a fan a big fan of Bottle Rocket and The Darjeeling Limited, but the rest of his body of work just doesn’t speak to me. Fantastic Mr. Fox was okay, but nothing else really stands out. Moonrise Kingdom is one of those films that doesn’t stand out, but it’s still a fun film, full of great characters.
Sam (Jared Gilman) is a boy scout of sorts, but he doesn’t really care to be one anymore. Suzy (Kara Hayward) is a troubled young kid with parents that don’t understand her, but she doesn’t want to be one anymore. The two are young and fully in love and they decide to plan an escape on a small New England town.
Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) is the first to be alarmed, after not finding Sam during the morning routine. He alerts Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), who’s in charge of all the police business. He then goes to the parents’ house of Suzy, Walt Bishop (Bill Murray) and Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand) and informs them of a missing scout, which leads them to find out that their own daughter is gone as well.
The entire cast from this point goes on a search for Sam and Suzy, while the two continue their adventures of childish high jinx.
Moonrise Kingdom is exceedingly sweet and a generally fun film, but it’s very Wes Andersony, which makes sense, because he directed it.
Anderson is a very specific director, with specific trademarks found in almost all of his films. He has a different sense of humor and that sometimes doesn’t translate well for everyone. If you liked any of his previous films chances are you’re going to find something to like in Moonrise Kingdom, but that level of entertainment depends on how much you’ve liked his previous work.
Sometimes his storytelling methods can wring out a little too dry for my tastes. Moonrise Kingdom has more than one occasion where it sort of sluggishly moves along. It soaks itself up in the scenery and dialogue, yet it doesn’t feel like it’s really conveying anything. The way Anderson introduces his characters and the way he brings everything together is unlike any other working director in the field, which sometimes provides for a good scene, but also a few bad ones.
Moonrise Kingdom does benefit from its cast. Bruce Willis and Edward Norton are clearly having some fun in their roles. The two are both sad and lonely fellows, yet still full of life and energy. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand aren’t as prominent as you’d expect out of an Anderson film, but the two fit right in.
The best cameo role goes to Jason Schwartzman. He’s easily the best part of the entire film; sadly he’s only in it for 10 or 15 minutes.
The two young actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are on the nose perfect. They represent a very tender and confusing age, yet they still demand respect from the older characters. Watching them interact and find solutions to their problems is the best thing about Moonrise Kingdom, because Anderson has managed to tap two mostly unknowns for the most important characters of the film. They do a great job with the material and really help capture that childlike sense of wonder.
Moonrise Kingdom is yet another solid Wes Anderson film that will please fans and probably not fully disappoint non-fans. It’s distinctive and personal and nostalgic, but never trying too hard to poke at the past. It’s just as much relevant today as it would have been 30 years ago. I give credit to Anderson for continuing to make such interesting and unique films, even if they don’t always click with me. He’s a gifted filmmaker that never tries to make something he’s not completely invested into.
Moonrise Kingdom – 7/10