Movie review: 'Moonrise Kingdom' full of old-fashioned fantasy

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The quirky quotient in "Moonrise Kingdom" is off the charts, even for a Wes Anderson movie.

He is, after all the director of "Bottle Rocket," "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," "The Darjeeling Limited" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox."

"Moonrise Kingdom" is set largely on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, an era when children pass the time with jacks, board games, vinyl records and pingpong.

'Moonrise Kingdom'

2.5 stars = Average
Ratings explained
  • Starring: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward.
  • Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.

Except for Suzy (Kara Hayward), who spends her days with her nose in a fantasy novel and a pair of binoculars around her neck, assiduously ignoring her three younger brothers and lawyer-parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).

A year earlier at a church pageant, she met a fellow 12-year-old misfit, Sam (Jared Gilman), and their correspondence escalated to plans to run away -- possible thanks to Sam's skills as a Khaki Scout.

The movie opens with Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) discovering that Sam is not in his tent, contacting the local police captain (Bruce Willis) and launching a search that later broadens to include Suzy once her parents realize she's missing, too.

Suzy is a sophisticated runaway, clad in a short pink dress with white knee socks and saddle shoes, toting a gold suitcase full of hardback books, a record player so she can listen to Francoise Hardy, a kitten and a red plaid bag that screams 1960s.

Sam and Suzy have the sort of fantasy adventure usually featured in one of her fat overdue library books complete with a summer romance and magical escape, an orphan, secrets brought to light, a brewing storm, an unexpected act of heroism and even mild violence with scissors, arrows and one thrown shoe.

"Moonrise Kingdom," written by Mr. Anderson and Roman Coppola and shot in Rhode Island, floats along on a sea of whimsical and period-centric details: A coonskin cap, a manual typewriter, animal costumes for a Noah's Ark pageant, camp signs made out of sticks and logs, and a bullhorn used to summon children inside a house.

The newcomers in the leads are surrounded by Mr. Norton, Mr. Murray, Ms. McDormand, Mr. Willis, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel and Bob Balaban (as an omniscient narrator). Some of the adults are more interesting than the children, but you barely get to know them.

Mr. Anderson's movies are marked by eccentricity and offbeat charm, but there's usually a layer of something deeper underneath. The Post-Gazette's 1999 review of "Rushmore," for instance, lauded Mr. Murray for investing his steel tycoon with audacious layers of pain, despair, silliness, black humor and deeply felt yearning.

"Moonrise Kingdom" features characters stung by loss, infidelity and disappointment, but it tilts toward the hope of young love, innocence, second chances and quirks. Lots and lots of quirks.

Opens today at the Manor in Squirrel Hill and AMC-Loews at the Waterfront.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: First Published June 22, 2012 4:00 AM


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