In Moonrise Kingdom, a young, precocious, humorously idealistic boy, escapes from his Scout camp in order to run away with a young, precocious, humorously idealistic girl. The time is 1965, the land is a small New England island, the tone is suitably Wes Anderson. From opening frame to final shutter, Moonrise Kingdom is laced with the best that Anderson has to offer. Snappy dialogue, naïve romance, warm hues, and a colorful cast of characters all help make the film a mostly enjoyable addition to the mostly perfect resume of Wes Anderson.
To explain. Moonrise Kingdom, like all of Anderson’s films, relies heavily on style and story to entertain its audience. And everything that makes a Wes Anderson film is on full display here, so no worry for fans looking to see our contemporary auteur flex his skill. But what’s missing is overall substance. There’s simply not a whole hell of a lot to it, which is, more often than not, the go-to ammunition for Anderson’s biggest skeptics. A lot of people claim that they don’t “get” Anderson’s films, or that his movies are all glamour, no heart. While I disagree, watching Moonrise Kingdom I can’t help but slowly shift my way over to their side. Much like The Life Aquatic, I want to like Moonrise Kingdom so badly, but there’s nothing yearning for my attention. Or memory.
The film begins after Sam (Jared Gilman) has already started his secret journey, and when he soon meets up with Suzy (Kara Hayward), the film proceeds to cross cut between their amusing trek, to the search party trying to find them. Among the searchers are Suzy’s combative parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Sam’s scout leader (Edward Norton), the Capitan of the police force (Bruce Willis), and Sam’s fellow scouts. The whole ordeal is narrated by the terrific Bob Balaban, who frequently engages us with historical banter concerning the island, all while breaking the fourth wall.
And that’s pretty much it. Sam and Suzy walk, set up camp, sleep. The others search, argue and search some more. Wild events come into play, screaming matches are fought, and so it is and so it goes. If I seem to be skimping on details, it’s not for lack of trying. But really, very early on in Moonrise Kingdom, I found myself completely disinterested in what I was watching. I didn’t care about the characters or what happened to them, I was utterly bored, waiting for some funny line of dialogue or mesmerizing camera movement to arouse my creativity (which, fair being fair, did happen a number of times).
To be honest, reviews for films that I am genuinely apathetic toward are always the most to write challenging. I have nothing profound to say, because I witnessed nothing profound. To summarize: if you like Wes Anderson (which I certainly do), then you will absolutely enjoy aspects of Moonrise Kingdom. But, if you like Wes Anderson, then you very well may find yourself being disappointed by it too. B-