Wes Anderson films aren't for everyone and if you're new to the director's unique style then Moonrise Kingdom is probably not the best place to start. This latest tale is essentially a kids movie for adults so whether you're one or the other you'll find it's a bit of a weird one to fully get into.
The story follows two kids in love who one day decide to run away together, this leaves the parents, Scout Master Ward (a perfect Edward Norton), his scouts and Bruce Willis' cop to try their best to hunt them down. This doesn't prove to be that straight-forward as Sam (Jared Hilman), the loose scout, is a skilled survivor and his partner in crime Suzy (Kara Hayward) has a bit of a violent streak. It's a cute love story with a sweet, touching resolution and Anderson's style compliments the 60's setting perfectly. He does give the film a bit of an edge also which is very welcome as otherwise this would have been one cutesy-ass movie. As it stands, there's a good balance between the whimsy and the rougher edges.
And yet the film lacks something.
If you're familiar with Wes Anderson's works you'll find yourself missing memorable characters from The Royal Tenenbaums, lols from The Life Aquatic, sharp dialogues from The Darjeeling Limited and the pace of Rushmore. Moonrise Kingdom isn't quite as spot-on as these older efforts mostly because you never feel like there's any urgency to the events unfolding. I mean, you do get involved in the story and its characters but you almost wish that those two kids had traveled all over the world with everyone struggling to keep up. Or at least had some villainous douche pursuing them.
I also don't think the film makes the best use of its awesome cast: Bill Murray is given an interesting dad character to work with but you barely see him, same goes for Frances McDormand who plays Murray's wife, her involvement in a love triangle could have been worth exploring but nothing really happens with that. There are a few one-joke characters as well but their joke falls a bit flat leaving the likes of Bob Balaban and Tilda Swinton a bit lost in the middle of it all. Jason Schwartzman's cameo is pretty darn great, though. Maybe a sequel should focus solely on the adults, I'd watch that...
Moonrise Kingdom is an oddity and doesn't always work but as a whole it's a good, sweet little movie with a cosy nostalgic tone to it. Plus it's got a terrific dance scene and Harvey Keitel, what more do you want? Not one of Anderson's best but definitely worth checking out, fans of the director (and panning GENIUS) won't be disappointed.