Thursday, June 7, 2012

Run Away to “Moonrise Kingdom”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
With 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson unequivocally proved he could make a film for children. (And now that Maurice Sendak has passed, I can comfortably say that Mr. Fox was a superior kids’ movie to that year’s Where the Wild Things Are.) Ah, but can Mr. Anderson make a movie starring children? And can that movie appeal to children? Moonrise Kingdom joyously answers the first question in the affirmative: This film is an absolute delight—inventive, smart, funny, and sweet. As for the second question, eh, it depends on the kid. But I’ll get back to that.

Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman
As star-crossed 12-year-old lovers Sam and Suzy, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are magnificent in their first movie roles. (Kicking himself right now: 12-year-old Jared Gilmore, who used to play Bobby on Mad Men.) Sam is on the nerdy side and an expert scout. Suzy, who is maturing physically a bit more rapidly than Sam, is a devoted reader and sort of a hothead. But they are both dreamers, both rebels, and are instantly drawn to each other. They join forces to run away from their individually stifling situations.

Kara Hayward
If you don’t like Wes Anderson films, well, why are you reading this review? But if you are a fan, take heart in the fact that this is textbook Anderson and he is at the top of his game. He’s created (with cowriter Roman Coppola, yes, those Coppolas) yet another world that is just slightly askew from reality. This time, it’s a small New England island community in 1965. Anderson pays so much attention to every set, every shot, and every line of dialogue—so clever and artful. He’s quirky as always, but Anderson seems to be getting more comfortable with genuine emotions. So he is able to beautifully capture the desire for escape, those weird first stirrings of love, and the undeniable power of people caring for each other.

Frances McDormand, Bill Murray
Anderson elicits great comic performances from his cast, top to bottom. In relatively small roles are Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Jason “Hey I Was a Kid in a Wes Anderson Movie Too And I’m Also a Coppola” Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Bob Balaban. With a bit more screen time are Edward Norton (pitch perfect as a straitlaced and straight-neckerchiefed scout leader) and Bruce Willis. Willis, terrific as the island’s one-man police force, deviates slightly from Anderson’s trademark deadpan deliveries, adding a nice bit of flavor to the movie. And the cast of boys who are Sam’s fellow “Khaki Scouts” are an absolute hoot.

Now what sort of kids might enjoy this movie?

Ed Norton and the Khaki Scouts
• Some familiarity and comfort with the birds and/or bees is recommended. Sam and Suzy experiment just a little. Can you blame them? They’re impetuous pre-teen runaways in love. Suzy is in her underwear. French kissing is mentioned and attempted. The female chest is referred to and hands are placed on a training bra. The male reaction to stimulus is briefly acknowledged. Overall, though, it’s a pretty chaste affair. When one of the scouts says he heard that Sam “got to third base,” he is quickly corrected.

• Ravenous readers and lovers of adventure stories should find a lot to love here. Suzy runs away with a suitcase full of (made-up) library books which she reads aloud from. Reading and storytelling are celebrated (as are music and drama). And as the plot advances, Sam and Suzy’s journey becomes a real-life adventure, full of arrows, storms, and fireworks.

• If your kid was 9 when Fantastic Mr. Fox came out and totally loved it—really responded to the offbeat humor—this could be a nice next step into Wes Anderson’s universe. Then wait another couple of years for Rushmore.

Ultimately, this could be a great movie to see with the whole family. Even if the kids who will appreciate it the most will probably want to sneak off and see it by themselves.

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