Movie review: Moonrise Kingdom

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From the June 21, 2012 edition

People love Wes Anderson. Or they hate Wes Anderson.

I get that. His style is so definitive that you could probably spot an Anderson flick from a single frame from most of his pictures. His visual and narrative quirks are endearing to some, eye-rolling to others.

Well, I’m in the “love Wes Anderson” camp — have been since “Bottle Rocket” — and I’ve probably had more friends who were jealous of my early screening of “Moonrise Kingdom” than any other movie in the past 12 months.

So as you wait with bated breath, fellow Wes fans, let me tell you this: “Moonrise Kingdom” is the Wes Anderson-iest Wes Anderson movie of all time. If you like what he’s selling, this is his warm-hearted masterpiece.

“The year is 1965,” an omnipresent narrator (played with perfect wryness by Bob Balaban) informs us. The fictional New England setting is New Penzance Island, Anderson’s island of misfit toys and young love.

Sam (Jared Gilman), a smart, troubled boy (another Anderson signature) turns up AWOL at Khaki Scout camp. As it were, Sam’s disappearance is quite planned. He’s run away to be with the girl of his dreams, the also smart, also troubled Suzy (Kara Hayward). Theirs is a smart, troubled young love affair for the ages.

There has always been a storybook quality to Anderson’s films, especially visually. He sets his scenes like a schoolchild’s diorama. His supporting characters are generally two-dimensional, and I mean that in a good way.

“Moonrise” is also Anderson’s greatest technical feat as a filmmaker. The camerawork is downright giddy. Tracking shots of military precision dance with bouncy handheld shots. He uses quick-cut edits in the exact opposite of the way Michael Bay does.

“Moonrise Kingdom” is Anderson at his most playful, most joyous, even with his mopey lead characters. It is, after all, a love story.

His young actors are perfect for an Anderson flick; they deliver lines with his trademark detachment. And the grownups — Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, a particularly spectacular Edward Norton, etc. — all stake claim as new classic characters in the Anderson canon.

Yep, I’m a Wes Anderson fan. And I pretty much grinned for the duration of “Moonrise Kingdom.” This is why I love movies.