Posted by: ckckred | June 11, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom: A Tremendously Fun Summer Film

The Khaki Scouts, led by Scout Master Randy Ward, discover that Sam is missing

Moonrise Kingdom is a terrific movie, one that easily ranks as my favorite film of the year, at least so far.  It’s a clever, quirky comedy filled with light-hearted humor while showing the beauty of Rhode Island back in 1965.  If Moonrise Kingdom doesn’t make my Top 10 list at the end of the year, then it’s going to be a renaissance year for the movie industry.

Wes Anderson is a director whose comedy style I have always loved.  Anderson has made some of the best comic-dramas of the last decade, such as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Rushmore.  He takes Woody Allen’s clever wit and adds some graceful and quirky humor.  His direction is similar to Allen too: Anderson loves to absorb the scenery with his camera and engages many pans and tilts in this film.

Moonrise Kingdom is about two children: Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Heyword).  Sam is a lonely, troubled orphan and a member of the Khaki Scouts (a Boy Scouts-type of group), and Suzy is a misfit with quibbling parents: a tired, old father (Bill Murray) and an uptight mother (Frances McDormand).

Sam and Suzy write to each other about their similar scenarios and decide to run off together.  Sam abandons the Khaki Scouts camp, and Suzy escapes from her parents’ home.  Sam brings with him a great deal of camping supplies (he even grabs a rifle!), while Suzy takes her collection of books, a record player, and her cat.  They take off for the wilderness, and soon fall in love.

Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton) goes berserk when he discovers that Sam’s run away and he makes his group of Khaki Scouts search for him.  The head of the police, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), tries to find both the two children while simultaneously deal a Social Services woman (Tilda Swinton, evoking great fear in her role) who wants to send Sam to a juvenile center.

Moonrise Kingdom‘s greatest success is its acting. Both Gilman and Heyword are first-time actors, yet they give fantastic performances in the film.  The problem with many child-actors today is that they don’t seem believable in their roles.  But I easily accepted everything those two kids did, whether it was cooking fish to piercing their ears. I can easily praise the performances of Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, and Tilda Swinton.  Norton’s Scout Master is a buffoonish character, but never becomes too cartoonish.  He’s sympathetic in the role, and certainly deserving for a Best Supporting Actor nomination come this Oscar season.  Bill Murray, a usual in Anderson’s films, is as hilarious as always, and his sad, dreary expressions give the film a glorious light.  Bruce Willis’ police captain is different than the usual tough guy Willis usually plays, but he succeeds in that role.  And Tilda Swinton, one of the best actresses working right now, has only a small role in the film but completely steals the spotlight in those few minutes.

In most comedies these days, actors usually go over the top in goofy personas that give off jokes that sound like they’re accompanied by a laugh-track (Adam Sandler is most notable for this).  Moonrise Kingdom, on the other hand, has its actors act completely seriously.  In one scene, the Khaki scouts are carrying a bunch of weapons, including an axe, bow and arrow, and a staff covered with nails, when they’re hunting down Sam.  A typical comedy would make the scouts act cartoonish and have them start hitting each other.  But Moonrise Kingdom has the scouts be completely stern, and we see the group of children marching down the camp like soldiers.  Not only is that a whole lot funnier, but very clever too.

One of my favorite parts of the film was its color palette.  The movie is filled with beautiful color blends, be it the green grass with the luscious khaki tents or the blue lakes with the golden yellow sand.  It adds the art-house mood to Moonrise Kingdom, and is the movie’s greatest success.

The story, written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, is filled with clever jokes and insightful humor.  It isn’t a belly-laugh film, but that’s not what Anderson and Coppola are aiming for.  Moonrise Kingdom isn’t just a comedy but also a drama.  The characters all are emotionally stricken in some way or form.

Moonrise Kingdom is a fast, clever film of the sort that I wish Hollywood would make more often.  Its title sequence is similar to that of movies made back in the 60s, and acts as if it was made in the era.  It’s a brave film full with humor and delight that Hollywood struggles to make these days.



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