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We weren’t invited to Prometheus and the Camp Pendleton Mud Run kept us from the screening of Madagascar 3, but we did get to enjoy Moonrise Kingdom from Wes Anderson, a director who has a knack for crafting ﬁlms that look like they crawled out
the nearest vintage boutique and directly onto the screen.
Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson’s ﬁrst live action ﬁlm since The Darjeeling Limited (following the stop action adaptation of Roal Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox), and he delivers an adventure-love story between two troubled tweens. It takes place in summer 1965 on a ﬁctional island off the New England coast.
While away at summer camp for the Khaki Scouts 12-year-old orphan Sam (Jared Gilman) and precocious Suzy (Kara Hayward) run away together based on a pact that they had been formulating since meeting the summer before. The pair sets off on an excursion across the island of New Penzance while an impending hurricane threatens their adventure. When the Scout Master (Edward Norton) discovers the children missing, he sets into motion an island wide search.
Sam—feared by his scout-mates and no longer even welcome at his own foster home—is as entertaining a character as any Anderson has crafted. Suzy is reminiscent of the young Margot Tenenbaum with her deadpan expressions and heavy eye makeup. Her pathetic parents, played by long-time Anderson collaborator Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, can’t deal with their headstrong, independent daughter.
Familiar faces abound. Bruce Willis plays the island sheriff (and McDormand’s not-so-clandestine lover). Tilda Swinton shows up as a Social Services rep; Jason Schwartzman is a compassionate scout leader; Harvey Keitel, the much less so scout commander.
It would be easier to describe Moonrise Kingdom as predictable if it weren’t so visually compelling and narratively entertaining. It is the best thing we’ve seen from Anderson since The Royal Tenenbaums—a fantastical world full of characters that live in an unaffected microcosm that doesn’t need to play by the rules of reality, science or medicine. It’s beautifully realized with artistic direction that drapes the visuals in a sheen that is both rich and interesting. The balance of comedy, adventure and melancholy is masterfully crafted through a wonderful script (by Anderson and Ramon Coppola) and enhanced by a talented cast. It’s a movie full of heroic characters and yet a refreshing respite from a summer full of over the top blockbuster action ﬁlms. (***1/2) -- Michael Jackson