The story behind Moonrise Kingdom focuses on an adolescent boy who is a foster child. He’s in a boy scout-like organization. While at camp the boy runs away to hook up with an adolescent girl who has parents. She doesn’t like them. The boy doesn’t like the boy scout-like group either. It just doesn’t work for him.
His dilemma is relatable.
When I was 12 I joined the Boy Scouts. It’s was a great organization then and it’s a great organization now. It just wasn’t my thing. We used to have jamborees where scouts from the region would test their skills. Not that I’m all that skilled now, but at 12 I had zero coordination, no confidence and most of all, I had no skills.
Zero. Zip. Nada.
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The thing I didn’t like the most about scouts was knot tying. I couldn’t pronounce the names of most of the knots they wanted me to learn much less tie them. However, I did master one. The double half-hitch. I had it down. Perfectly.
One of the jamboree events was knot-tying. I was terrified. I just knew I’d get up to the judge and he’d say, “Bolen.” Or “Sheep Shank.” Or any number of other nasty, unknown knots. I prayed with all my might. Double half-hitch. Double half-hitch. Double half-hitch. And when I got there, the judge said, “Double half-hitch.”
My mind went blank. Completely.
I could not remember how to tie my only knot. Not. Not. Knot. After several minutes, I slunk back to my troop mates, embarrassed. Defeated. The next week I quit scouting and never returned.
It just wasn’t my thing.
That brings us to Moonrise Kingdom. The plot covers a lot of territory and is as complex as it is simple. Most Wes Anderson films are. The movie’s central character -- like me -- decides to bag scouting. He’s just a hell of a lot more creative about leaving than I was.
Like most of Anderson’s projects, this one starts with a superb cast that includes Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Francis McDormand and -- as with most Anderson projects -- Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman.
Jared Gilman is Sam. Scouting is his thing, the scout troop isn’t. He’s leaving because he doesn’t relate to his troop mates and has met someone really special. Suzy is done by Kara Howard. Neither kid is a trained actor. In fact, their acting is awful. They’re awkward like 13-year olds in their first middle school play.
In a way, they kind of are. Maybe that’s why their part of Moonrise Kingdom works.
Murray and McDormand are Suzy’s unhappy parents. She has a thing for Bruce Willis’ island sheriff and Murray’s character is physically there but mentally absent. Edward Norton’s boy scout-like group leader is caring but inept. An assorted group of kid actors play the rest of the troop and have the pleasure of tossing off some very funny one-liners.
Bob Balaban narrates and tells you Sam’s scout camp is on an island. It’s the year the island had the worst storm in decades. While Sam and Suzy are learning their way around relationships and get that first awkward kiss, and the storm starts to grow nasty, the film’s adults start searching. That search reveals equally awkward relationships among the adults and explores the kind of terrific comedy and performances unique to Wes Anderson films.
Moonrise Kingdom is creative and clever. This isn’t Anderson’s best effort by any stretch of the imagination. However, any Anderson is better than no Anderson at all.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Director: Wes AndersonWriter: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Stars: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Francis McDormand, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It’s playing at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.