Itís a fable set in a bizarro movie world as Bruce Willis plays a dithering, uncertain and lonely police captain, Bill Murray a hopeless cuckold, Edward Norton and Jason Schwartzman cartoonish and earnest Boy Scout leaders and Tilda Swinton an uptight, by-the-book official who goes by the moniker Social Services.
The actors go against type in magnificent form and the result is something magical and memorable. Moonrise Kingdom is a glorious departure for them and an unmitigated joy for audience, numbed by heavy handed 3D action films that bear no resemblance to art or life.
This is brilliant counterprogramming to the flat, fetid films of spring/summer 2012. Itís a candy colored fantasy world where the thrill of first love and running away is as exciting as any super hero gambit.
Picture a tiny, idealized seaside village as charming as a storybook. Go inside a family home, tour it from top to bottom, meet the family members along the way and get a good sense of who they are in their silent vignettes in the attic, bedroom, kitchen and basement.
This is a home and a family lives inside. Each is a rebel in his own way and each cleaves to tradition. Itís as though they know they are locked in a storybook and must obey the rules of the writer, or lose their place in this warm, fuzzy, pretty world.
The eldest daughter Suzy (first time actor Kara Hayward) has a secret; sheís not just trying to figure out who she is and separate from her young self, she has something on her mind.
Her mother Laura (Frances McDormand) stomps about the house, barking out orders and questions using a bullhorn which seems a darn good idea in a big, bustling house like the Bishopsí. Father (Murray) sits back and feels disconnected yet pleased that heís still allowed to be part of the domestic bustle.
Cut to a Boy Scout encampment, where fresh faced young brats are plotting the next few days with military precision under the steely eye of Scout Master Ward (Norton). Heís like a mother hen in a necktie and badges, more at home with these captive kids than people his own age perhaps suffering from a case of arrested development.
So when Sam (Jared Gilman) disappears, he looks on it as a personal betrayal as a leader, not as a boy in danger or crisis. He reports to Captain Sharp (Willis) and the official search is on. Then Suzy Bishop is reported missing too, along with her brotherís record player and a kitten. Where could they be?
Wes Andersonís sophisticated and yet somehow wide-eyed world view is seductive and contagious. His elegant cinematic language, the deceptively simple screenplay and his choice of actors is uniquely balanced and pure gold. The film is thoughtful, satirical, funny, ironic and completely open hearted in an oddball way that is 100% Anderson magic.
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Written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Directed by Wes Anderson
Opens May 25th
Runtime: 94 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking