Moonrise Kingdom

Directed By: Wes Anderson

Starring: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, and Harvey Keitel

It's been a few years since we've seen Wes Anderson at the box office, and we've definitely missed his signature filmmaking style.  His eccentric visuals, his dry humor, and his caricatured characters are the things that make his films so special.  They're why we love his movies so much.  We get them all in his latest comedy Moonrise Kingdom.  We also get some phenomenal performances from an all-star cast.

It's 1965.  Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is a 12-year-old orphan in foster care.  He's part of a Boy Scout troop on New Penzance Island in New England.  When he decides to resign from his position as a scout and leave his troop, Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton) just can't allow this to happen.  With the boy now missing, he alerts Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) of the police department and takes his troops around the island to search for the boy.  Meanwhile, Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) also runs away from her family.  Her parents Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) aren't so enthused about this and direct Captain Sharp to look for their girl as well.  Later, they find letters in Suzy’s room that indicate she has run away with Sam.

It just so happens that Sam and Suzy met a year prior.  Pen pals for the better part of a year, the two friends shared their struggles with one another.  Both outcasts in their communities and families, they decide to run away with one another on the Old Chicksaw Trail, a rather remote location on New Penzance Island.  With Captain Sharp, Suzy's parents, and an entire troop of bloodthirsty Boy Scouts searching for them all over the island, it's just a matter of time until they're found.  These two young lovers are ready to defend themselves however.

The big motif of Moonrise Kingdom revolves around the orchestra and how instruments of different types come together to play variations of the same theme.  We can see a great deal of this played out in this ensemble flick in how they all bring their own styles of eccentric comedy to the film.   We've got child actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward running wild, dancing terribly, and stabbing any Boy Scouts who try to stop them.  We've got action star Bruce Willis deputizing scouts and their little dogs left and right.  We've got dramatic actor Edward Norton being serious to the point that it's silly.  We've even got Bill Murray being Bill Murray as he chops down trees.  All in all, each cast member contributes humor in his or her own way to this oddball romp.

Wes Anderson has really crafted a small masterpiece in Moonrise Kingdom, and it's not just because it's a hilarious film.  It's more than just a funny movie about the 60s; Anderson takes us back in time.  Anderson captures the nuances of the 60s with the perfect costumes and set design.  He gives us somewhat grainy cinematography that offers video quality comparable to what you'd find in a movie made nearly a half century ago.  He does so without compromising the quality of the film.  Anderson even gives us low-budget sets that appear to be close-ups of miniature items on camera.  The New Penzance post office looks like some 5-year-old's art project for school, but it highlights the limited technology of the era.  Altogether, Anderson has given us a phenomenal period piece that not only looks like the 60s but feels like it was made then.

Alexandre Desplat really does something special with the score for Moonrise Kingdom.  The music is superb.  The selections are so distinctive and appropriate.  They continue to build on the orchestral theme that resonates throughout the film.  Whether he’s giving us classical selections from Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic or country music from the late great Hank Williams, I found myself tapping my feet to Desplat's tunes almost as much as I was laughing.

Moonrise Kingdom is the best indie movie I've seen so far this year.  I have to applaud Wes Anderson for meticulously putting together this light-hearted flick.  It's a film that keeps getting funnier and more enjoyable as you go along.  Moonrise Kingdom gets a sober rating.  Don't miss this one!