To allow you, my readers of any given article, in on my psyche for a brief moment, I sometimes feel bad about the fact that, because I am in a smaller city/medium-large town, I very rarely get the opportunity to review smaller, more independent movies when they are released in theaters. The reason for such being that they are almost never released in theaters here. I feel it sometimes makes me appear biased towards liking only the big-budget studio flicks and completely disregarding the indies. I do, in fact, like my fair share of smaller ventures. But if this bullshit is supposed to be what best represents a great independent movie, I’d choose the biggest, loudest blockbuster available any day of the week.
Moonrise Kingdom is about two misfit children, Sam Shakusky, the misunderstood orphan currently in a summer camp scout program, and Suzy Bishop, the outsider child of two lawyers, who decide to run away together on the vaguely east coast island they met on. Thus sparks a search party including everyone from Suzy’s parents, Sam’s scout leader, to the island police chief, and that creepy narrator guy who serves no purpose.
Not that he’s ever been a box-office bombshell like the others, but Moonrise Kingdom is prime evidence for the argument that Wes Anderson is becoming the next Tim Burton, George Lucas, or any other once great filmmaker turned supposed hack. This movie reeks of being the product of a director who has escaped from having to answer to anybody and now does whatever he wants or doesn’t want. Here, the want is to choose a premise and plug as many Anderson-isms as he can into it and the doesn’t want is to tell a compelling story with interesting characters.
For a story that’s inherently supposed to be warm and twee, Moonrise Kingdom is consistently cold and artificial. Anderson’s omnipresent style suffocates the movie with its unnatural focus on having everything be quirky and different above everything else, not to mention majorly contradicts it. He clearly knows what he wants to technically do with the film, seeing how there is some very cool camera work, unique soundtrack choices, and playful editing; typical Wes Anderson stuff. But it’s all similar to delivering extravagant trimmings with no real meat (story) as the centerpiece.
Barely anything that happens really matters or feels like it advances anything forward. Someone gets struck by lightning, a dog gets impaled by an arrow, that narrator dude I mentioned earlier pops up and gives mostly irrelevant information, and other wackiness happens. But there’s no internal impact on the story or characters from it or even a reason for these things to happen in the first place. Even reactions as an audience member, whether they were intended to be comedic or tragic, didn’t amount to more than a shrug.
None of the actors in this lineup are noteworthy. Even Murray and Schwartzman, Anderson’s
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter regulars are wasted. Everyone may well have been on ambien because there are only fleeting glimpses of emotion that shine through. The veteran actors are at least able to keep from embarrassing themselves with the overly subdued acting style but the two main kids don’t grasp Anderson’s dialogue stanzas like others before have and get absolutely skewered by it. Unfortunately, they are the main focus of the movie and have the most drawn out scenes. After about 40 minutes in, having to watch them do little more than mumble like robots becomes near excruciating.
Believe it or not, this review is coming from the keyboard of someone who, statistically, likes most Wes Anderson movies. Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are not only both very oddly funny but are also very investing and have their touching moments. The quirkiness comes naturally in order to serve the story (the most important thing). Moonrise Kingdom is only interested in piling the quirkiness on what’s ultimately a non-existent foundation.
Die-hard fans of Anderson may find what they’re looking for and excuse the absence of charm and investment but others who have already written it off as “hipster bullshit” probably won’t find any reason to think otherwise.