I’m going to start with a list of movies, and I want you to tell me if you’ve seen them. Here it goes:
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Darjeeling Limited
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Seen any of them? If you said no, I wouldn’t be surprised: they all are rather quirky and aren’t necessarily mainstream, though they have garnered quite a bit of praise over the years. Each of these films, like Moonrise Kingdom, is written and directed by Wes Anderson, the guy whom I believe must have the most interesting, colorful, and crazy imagination in the history of the world, or at least in Hollywood. Take out colorful, and he’s the Coen brothers.
That’s, of course, not a bad thing. After all, the brothers Coen have given us Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men, and True Grit, among others. But I say that more to give you a ballpark for what to expect out of Wes Anderson’s movies. They are inherently weird, to put it bluntly. And Moonrise Kingdom is no exception.
Moonrise Kingdom is the story of Suzy and Sam, two 12-year-olds who meet, fall in love, and agree to run away together and embark on an adventure that they won’t soon forget.
Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward ) is the eldest of 4 children, a problem child with a super power that is aided by her treasured binoculars.
Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is an unpopular member of the Khaki Scouts, an orphan and expert cartographer with a great interest in the Chickchaw Harvest Migration Trail.
The two meet at a church performance of Noye’s Fludde – the story of Noah and the Ark – and become pen pals who live at opposite ends of an island. One year later, in the summer of 1965, the two decide to run away together – Sam from the Khaki Scouts’ summer camp, and Suzy from her parents’ vacation lighthouse at Summer’s End – and leave their dismal, lonely lives behind them.
This prompts the entire island, including Sam’s scout master (Edward Norton) and fellow scouts, Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and brothers, and the island police captain (Bruce Willis), to act as a search party to find the two missing young lovers.
Is there a lot of character development? Not really. Is there a twist ending? Nope. Are there a bunch of awesome special effects? Negative. Do you need to spend two or more hours in the theater and then even longer afterwards to figure out “what it all means?” Nay.
It’s a simple story, but it creates so many funny, interesting, and delightful situations that you’d be hard-pressed to want much more from it. Is it weird? Sure. There are all sorts of odd story and character quirks that you wouldn’t find in other movies, so many unique and interesting touches that just set this film apart. In no way does that make Moonrise Kingdom any less likable or any less accessible.
While the two films are extremely different, I find myself comparing Moonrise Kingdom to last year’s magical Midnight in Paris. Both are stories of love – one of a city and a time, the other of a person and an adventure – and both are extremely light-hearted and fun. Both are directed by the same person that wrote them. Both are set (at least partly) in a time before our own. And both have their fair share of quirks, though admittedly Wes Anderson’s caricatures and whimsy are far different from Woody Allen’s neuroticism. But even better than those comparisons is that, like Midnight in Paris, Moonrise Kingdom is a darling of a film.
I was initially going to preface this review with this statement: this movie may not be for everyone. But, my mom went with me and she liked it, so I guess that statement doesn’t really hold up. Often Wes Anderson’s stories are so whimsical, quirky, and unabashedly odd that unless you are into “weird” movies, you may not find much to like within his repertoire. All of those things – whimsy, quirk, and oddity – are present here, and not so much in moderation, but there is something – I don’t know what, but something – about this movie that just made me delighted as I sat in my chair and watched it all unfold. It’s really a movie that you should see for yourself.
With a star-studded cast, memorable cameos, and a gaggle of talented young actors reminiscent of The Goonies, Wes Anderson has created a film that I don’t think you’ll want to miss. If you ever had a childhood crush or have fallen in love, ever felt like an outsider, ever hoped to embark on an adventure, well, Moonrise Kingdom is certainly for you. All you need to do is come to the theater, sit back, and enjoy the show.