Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking
Now playing at CineArts Santana Row in San Jose, California:
Containing Wes Anderson’s unique touch of heavy handed direction, the only things that allow “Moonrise Kingdom” to somewhat elude the extreme quirky detachment (customary in overrated films such as “The Royal Tenenbaums”) is the heartwarming central story concerning two children in love and, in fact, some rather visually stimulating direction. In Anderson’s seventh feature film with writer/director credits (this particular film was also co-written by Roman Copploa) he tells the story of two elementary school age lovers, Suzy and Sam (superbly played by Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman) who run away together after finding life with their families insufferable. There is also a parallel (and very misguided) storyline which concerns Suzy’s mother and father, played by Frances McDormand and Billy Murray, a Scout Master, played by Edward Norton, and a Police Captain (Captain Sharp) who is played by Bruce Willis, all in search of the two missing children as a storm furiously approaches. Allow me to say this before I get into the meat of my review: while “Moonrise Kingdom” contains Anderson’s quirky for quirky’s sake storytelling, this film is more like “Rushmore” (undeniably Anderson’s crowning achievement) than any of his other films, simply because of its central, child driven storyline. In saying that, “Moonrise Kingdom” does have major flaws. So, if you should hear from any other “critics” that this is “the best film of the year” (because many critics are saying just that) they are wrong. “Moonrise Kingdom” (as an entire film) is just OK.
Side Note: OK, so before I get any hateful e-mails proclaiming how my feelings towards “Moonrise Kingdom” directly coincides with my perception of how most of Anderson’s work is overrated, art-house fanboy fodder, don’t hit send just quite yet. Read my reasoning’s below, and then you can decide for yourself.
One could go so far as to say that “Moonrise Kingdom” is a tale of two films: one containing an intriguing storyline following two children and their perception of true love, and the other a distracting and rather boring storyline which follows a group of mundane adult characters. So, suffice to say, when Anderson chooses to focus on the children’s story, the film becomes rather endearing, but when the lens moves back towards the shrug inducing adult storyline, the entire film seems to stop dead in its tracks, as the audiences is forced to wade through mounds of his eccentric visuals and characters with Diablo Cody-esque (emotionless) speech patterns.
So, other than the children’s storyline (thankfully the main storyline) some very interesting direction and a fabulous score, everything else here is pretty forgettable, especially all of the adult actors and actresses; and that is a head shaking disappointment when one considers the talent involved. I mean, every adult here does a decent job, but the script fails all of them miserably and persistently. Murray and McDormand are pretty much wasted here, given nothing really to do, and Harvey Keitel is horrendously miscast as the Scout Commander. Ed Norton plays maybe the most interesting character as a kind of pathetic man-boy Scout Master, but said character’s potential is exhausted little more than half way through. As for Willis, he plays the Captain Sharp character with a reserved tone that many will confuse as subtlety brilliant acting, when in reality it is a performance that comes off as really kind of dull. Not to say Willis isn’t a very good actor, the fact is (and I will say this over and over again) that really none of the adult characters are interesting (or have anything interesting to say) AT ALL; hence what they do and how well of a performance these A-list actors attempted to give is irrelevant here.
Anderson’s directing is what it is; an acquired taste some might say. As far as “Moonrise Kingdom” is concerned, his direction here is rather genius (for the most part). Near the end there are some questionable uses of cornball CGI, but other than that (as a whole) this is one of the best LOOKING films of the year. Again, it is the storyline (and portion of the dialogue), not the visuals (no matter how overbearing) that fail this film.
Final Thought: Maybe there was a larger conceptual thing going on here that I totally missed. Maybe all of those annoying little interludes by Bob Balaban (Ghost World), who plays a narrator of sorts, were meant to be seen as a kind of omnipotent look at the lives of simple people. Or maybe this was a story attempting to define love, ruined by Anderson’s fetish for writing stories full of detached adult characters. Overall, “Moonrise Kingdom” can be categorized as having an effectively romantic central storyline, while still containing major, eye rolling flaws that will be unavoidably evident to the non-hipster (non-film geek) communities; aka 90 percent of audiences.
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