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Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s films are the kind of quirky exposes on life that you would find embedded on the pages of Time/Life magazine from a different era.  You know his stamp when you see it.  He is a filmmaker that is very rarely off his game, and when he is off you want to attack him for that (myself wants to that is).  In my opinion The Life Aquatic is the one sour note in his cannon of films, but films such as The Royal Tennebaums, Rushmore, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox  more than make up for that mis-step.

Moonrise Kingdom follows two young pre-teens in their quest for un-requited love in 1965.  Sam is a young precocious boyscout that strays from his group to meet Suzy, a girl that he had met the previous summer.  It was love at first sight.  He uses his scout knowledge to make sure they remain safe while on their adventure.  During that adventure they learn about themselves and how to build a relationship between themselves.

Their families enlist the help of scout master Ward (Edward Norton) and local official Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) to hunt down the two children and set them straight.  Suzy’s parents (Francis McDormand and Bill Murray) are outraged at how this could happen, and take their frustrations out on those who are in the hunt for the children with them.  The rest of Sam’s pack also are sent out to hunt the young couple down in a very Lord of the Flies manner.

There is a youthfulness at play during the course of the film that reminds me a lot of how important you thought everything was when you were a child.  You felt you knew everything there was to be known about love and life at such an early age.  It’s a profound feeling that you lose soon after you realize the harsh realities of the world around you.  Moonrise Kingdom is the story of how these children live in that world.

For as cute, quaint, and good looking as the film is, it also feels a little bit safe in the world of Wes Anderson.  The one thing I will say about Wes Anderson’s film-making style is that I’m not sure how much depth it has.  For the most part we’ve seen his films re-done over and over, only the subject matter has changed.  His camera movements remain the same.  His immaculate set design and art direction remains the same.  They are the hallmarks of his film-making style.

His films are always enjoyable, always well done, but at some point for a filmmaker like him he needs to become more than that. He has this Woody Allen quality to him at times, but Woody Allen’s quirky-ness led to some of the most timeless films we have.  Moonrise Kingdom is a fine film, and it’s one of the better films of the year,  but it’s not a timeless film.  That is what I believe Wes Anderson is capable of, and what needs to be his next step.  He needs to become more than just his quirky nature, and I think we are still waiting for that film.

Grade: B