A boy flees his Khaki Scouts troop, a girl runs away from her parents, and an island sheriff and scout troop leader put into effect a massive manhunt to find them in Wes Anderson's offbest comedy Moonrise Kingdom, an original and amusing, if not ultimately unremarkable, return to form for the director.
Though Anderson directed the criminally overlooked Fantastic Mr. Fox, his last good live-action film was 2001's The Royal Tenenbaums. His follow-up The Life Acquatic with Steve Zissou was disappointing with a smattering of genius, while The Darjeeling Limited was simply awful. Moonrise Kingdom is a simplified, entertaining film that strips away some of the quirk that Anderson has become obsessed with while maintaining most of his signature traits.
Moonrise Kingdom features the likes of Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel, but the film's stars are Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who play the unlikely tween couple Sam and Suzy. Both make their theatrical debut with this movie, and both deliver fine performances, though they are purposely restrained by Anderson's filmmaking approach.
The movie is clever and entertaining, but despite rave reviews I didn't find a lot to sink my teeth into. Unlike Anderson's other movies, or perhaps to an extra degree, the actors seem limited by his story and style. None of the actors are given much to do other than to do exactly what Anderson's script dictates, which often is to do an action, state a line or stare blankly ahead. Anderson crafts the comedic timing more than the actors do, which is fine but hardly takes advantage of the amazing cast he's assembled. Bill Murray is especially wasted in a small supporting role. And back to the two leads - their relationship and adventures are cute, but neither Gilman nor Hayward is given the opportunity to make it feel like anything more than that.
Moonrise Kingdom is a fun movie to watch and one that is surprisingly safe for the whole family (other than Anderson breaking the cardinal rule of allowing a dog to unnecessarily get killed by an arrow), but beyond fun there isn't much to it. Still, it's a vast improvement from The Darjeeling Limited, even if that's not saying much.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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