This film's reputation had preceded it by the time I got to theater. Before I even knew what it was, I was hearing rave reviews about "Moonrise Kingdom" from multiple sources. I probably would have seen it at some point, mainly because of the star-studded cast this movie features. Rarely does a movie have such talented actors as Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, and Edward Norton on screen at the same time. I was also intrigued by director Wes Anderson, who has a distinct and slightly quirky sense of humor that I really gravitate towards. The two stars of this show, however, are newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, playing Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop respectively.
This movie at its heart is a love story between two "disturbed" twelve-year-olds (Sam and Suzy) who plot to run away together to a cove on the little island they inhabit. Sam has just resigned from the Khaki Scouts and "flew the coop" during morning inspection at Camp Ivanhoe, much to the chagrin of his scout master, Randy Ward (Edward Norton). While Randy and the police captain (Bruce Willis) create a search party for the MIA Khaki Scout, Sam embarks on a journey to meet Suzy at a predetermined neutral location. Together, they brave the difficulties of dehydration, a ravenous scout troop on their tail, as well as the complications of ear-piercing. Once they are caught by Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), the question becomes "what will happen to Sam?" Sam is an orphan, which Suzy thinks sounds exciting as many of the books she loves feature an orphan protagonist. He sets her straight, however, saying "I love you, but you have no idea what you're talking about." Later, after reflecting on their sin of ostracizing Sam, and with the fearful possibilities of his "brain getting cut outta him", the scout troop plans an escape of the disenfranchised youth in order to reunite him with his star-crossed love.
I could probably go on for pages and pages quoting the many funny lines in this film. In a way, I almost wish I could take this film scene-by-scene and describe how great it is to you. While that would be fun for me to relive the movie, it's much better for you to just see the film for yourself. This is a hilarious, wonderfully old-fashioned exploration of youthful shenanigans that everyone can enjoy. There are a lot of great characters in this film, which could have over-complicated the story and taken away more than it added. Thankfully, good writing allowed for each storyline to be featured in a way that was satisfying and provided good explanations that justified each character's inclusion in the plot. This is a movie I think will need to be experienced multiple times to fully appreciate, but I left the theater wishing I could remember every line of dead-pan delivered dialogue.
There are so many things I love about this film, but there are also a few things that kept it from being a wholly enjoyable experience for me. These are small caveats, and probably won't offend others as much as they did me, so take them with a grain of salt. There's a scene where the two kids are spending time on the beach and they start to... "explore" each other that I thought could have been cut. It's a little inappropriate and I didn't feel like it belonged in this movie. Another part is when a dog is needlessly killed during an otherwise amusing scene. While the aftermath provided a pretty funny line, it was a little hard to see as a dog-lover. Also, there's a scene of underage drinking that kind of annoyed me. All in all, the combination of these scenes is less than five minutes, and I didn't let it taint my overall enjoyment of the film.
This is a great movie, and were it not for the little things that bothered me I would have had no hesitation in recommending this film. It's a hilarious diversion with some pretty great line deliveries, an imaginative score and brilliant camera shots that almost always made me smile if not laugh out loud. I give this movie a strong three and a half stars.
MOONRISE KINGDOM is rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.