Directed by Wes Anderson
The opening scene certainly gives one hope, an amazing feat of production design and cinematography as Robert Yeoman’s camera zooms in and out of the rooms of the Bishop house, introducing the family in a highly unconventional way. Suzy, played by Kara Hayward, is the clear outsider, who doesn’t seem to belong, but before our mind can adjust to the eclectic title credits, we’re off to the remote island of New Penzance where Khaki Scouts Troop 55 has lost one of their members, Sam Shakusky, who has run off to find the girl he’s been corresponding with for the past year.
This first ten minutes is terrific with lots of great visual sight gags and everything one has come to expect from a Wes Anderson movie, but once the story of young lovers turned runaways has been set up, this is where it becomes obvious the concept is far more interesting than the actual execution.
You really want to like the two young and obviously inexperienced actors Anderson has paired in this story of young love, but as the movie turns into an arty and aloof French film circa the ’60s, their lack of charisma and the film’s general lack of emotion keeps their scenes from working. There’s also something particularly icky about watching two pre-pubescent kids making out in their underwear on a beach that’s oddly even more disturbing than those creepy Calvin Klein underwear commercials from the ’90s. From there, it turns into a madcap romp as Troop 55 decides to help Sam and Suzy escape before he gets sent to the orphanage, with the last act coming across like practically every “Little Rascals” short with Anderson trying to create scale by filling the ending with all sorts of flood and fires, all done using sub-standard CG.
Any of the film’s novelty has already worn out its welcome by this point once you realize Anderson doesn’t have enough of a story to back up the earlier sight gags. It leaves you wondering how Anderson gets away with it, because there’s nothing particularly funny or clever or artistic about any of “Moonrise Kingdom,” and it often comes across as little more than one of those amateurish high school plays from “Rushmore.”
Sadly, Wes Anderson has turned into one of those infectiously adorable kids who grow up oblivious to the fact that what once was cute has just become obnoxious, yet he keeps trying anyway. Who knows whether Anderson is so aware his fans expect certain sensibilities he feels the need to play up to them constantly or if he really thinks this is what movie audiences want to see, but he’ll always have plenty of A-list enablers on board to help do whatever he wants.
None of his adult actors are doing particularly impressive work to make the writing seem better, most of them alternating between a stiff deadpan and scenery-chewing histrionics, generally going through the movie as if they’ve forgotten how to emote, particularly Edward Norton and Bruce Willis. Tilda Swinton pops in all-too-briefly as a social services worker, a shadow of what we’ve seen from her in the past, which just leaves the two returning members of the Wes Anderson Players, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, both who’ve worked with him since “Rushmore,” who have the strongest handle on how to make his dialogue work. Another standout is Bob Balaban as the Narrator who explains the geography and weather of the film’s setting, but like everything else, it’s something that’s amusing at first but gets tired the more Anderson relies on it.
Other than the two leads, the rest of the kids try their best to deliver Anderson’s very specific dialogue at a rapid pace but fail to be able to get all those words out. There’s a certain point when the movie desperately needs to slow down and allow the viewer to catch up, but Anderson is having none of that. The only other subplot involves Suzy’s mother Laura, played by Frances McDormand, having an affair with Bruce Willis’ head of the Island Police, a story that may have been far more interesting if it was explored further than the one or two short scenes before being completely forgotten.
A lot has been said about Wes Anderson’s ability to use a distinctive musical score to enhance his electic stories, but this one is just odd – bombastically overscored one minute then completely devoid of any music the next. It’s shocking that the combination of Alexandre Desplat and Mark Mothersbaugh couldn’t must up something that could improve upon the film’s lack of emotion and dull attempts at humor.
The Bottom Line: