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Movie Review: 'Moonrise Kingdom'

Moonrise Kingdom

Starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand
Directed by Wes Anderson
Rated PG-!3

Recently I listened to an interview with favorite whipping boy Kevin Smith.  In the interview he talked about why he was retiring from film and the answer he gave was kind of a poignant moment.  He stated that with his recent movies; he relied too much on what basically amounted to stealing his own material.  I feel the same thing has happened to Wes Anderson.  That’s not to say that directors and writer/directors, especially the goods ones, will have their own unique stamp on a movie and that having that unique stamp is wrong.  No, it’s when you really have nothing left to say.  Whatever drove you to become a writer or director or both has taken the early flight back and you’re left with the glories of your past.   Welcome to that club Wes Anderson.  Saying that is a little ironic given that most of his movies deal with protagonists basking in their former glories. 


Wes Anderson is by no means your average run of the mill writer or director.  The guy has a unique way with everything he puts out, from the look and feel of his films, the music to the deliberate nature by which his characters act and speak.  But there comes a time when you need to cut the umbilical cord and progress.  Hell, even Kevin Smith made the move with Red State.  That movie wasn’t very good but at least he tried.  Moonrise Kingdom, the latest from Mr. Anderson, feels like a greatest hits album.  But it’s the second greatest hits album later in the career with songs that aren’t as good as the earlier stuff.  You’ll buy it because you love the guy, but you listen to it once and onto the shelf it will sit, for a very long time. 

 The basic premise is this: Set on the fictional island of New Penzance, the film tells the story of Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Heyward), young star crossed lovers, who over the past year since meeting, have hatched, then executed their plan to run away together.  Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Sam’s Scout Master (Edward Norton), the island Sheriff (Bruce Willis) and Sam’s scout troop begin a search for the two.  The movie does a nice job of playing off the naiveté’s of the two young lovers as they travel, not so very incognito, across the island. 

But their journey comes to and end and they are separated and told to never see each other again.  But don’t fret Wes Anderson faithful that only covers about 45 minutes of the movie.  You can’t keep these two apart and another plan is hatched and executed.  Oh, and there is a huge storm about to hit the island, but I won’t spoil the rest for you.

 And for those Anderson fans reading this review, this movie is what you’ve come to expect from him.  All the usual visual props, attention to detail and his sort of matter of fact dialogue are all here.  The problem is it’s just not very exciting anymore (he also makes the mistake here of not going his usual route of using pop music).  Laborious might be the better word now.  His movies have worked in the past because 1) he was bringing something completely different to the table and 2) his casting choices fit his style.  

I might be the only person who says this, but save for the two young leads; I felt this movie was really miscast.  Every actor in this movie has at some point in their career, shown their comedic abilities, but for whatever reason, their style and Anderson’s style don’t mesh.  Anderson’s dialogue and the way he has his actors delivering their lines is so deliberate, that when you don’t have the right people in place, they looked bored and slightly uncomfortable (case in point is poor Harvey Keitel in his few mintues).  And that deliberate nature, well it becomes mighty irritating.  Even Bill Murray, who’s been a standout in every other Anderson film, just doesn’t fit here.  Well, I take part of this back.  Jason Schwartzman, who has about 5 minutes of film time, delivers in spades.  

Wes Anderson is such a talented guy, I hope that one day he’ll break out of his comfort zone and move forward with his career.  He has the goods to pull it off.  He needs to do it, because his world isn’t fun anymore.  Sorry Wes, but until you choose to do that, I just might take the early flight back home myself.

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