Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom is another witty charmer from writer/director Wes Anderson, this time with a bittersweet tinge of youth’s passing in 1965 New England. The protagonists are two troubled 12-year-olds who run away to marry in the wilderness of insular New Penzance Island. Suzy’s parents are miserable, insufferable lawyers (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray). Suzy sees a lot (often through binoculars) and has discovered her mother is having an affair with the island policeman, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). Sam is an orphan with outstanding wilderness skills, who resigns from his Khaki Scout troop (in writing!) and is not invited back to his foster family if found. His only family is the troop of Khaki Scouts led by the well-meaning but overmatched Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton).

The real trouble with Sam and Suzy is they’re too perceptive; the two take stock and figure they can’t do a worse job of running their lives than these adults. So the Anderson follies begin with the hunt for the star- crossed lovers. While great performances are expected (and delivered) by the likes of Murray, McDormand, and Norton, and the child actors are uniformly superb, Anderson newcomer Willis is a real surprise as the sad but stalwart Captain Sharp. An escapist delight for smart film fans.

Director Anderson made a baffling and, in my estimation, costly creative decision to shoot Moonrise Kingdom on smaller-gauge 16mm film. On paper, this seems a cute way to get a vintage, home-movie look. In reality, it’s smaller film stock with lower resolution and more grain than traditional 35mm film. Thus, Moonrise Kingdom is an unnecessarily poor-looking movie. With the exception of some closer, bright, daylight shots, the image too often lacks depth, clarity, and detail. Mostly, it looks overly grainy and muddled, like looking at a decent bootleg through a screen door. This is a shame because enough of the beauty of the locations and meticulously nuanced production design sneak through to give a hint of what might have been. Obviously this is not the fault of the transfer, but it is what it is, intentionally or not. The audio is much better, with clear dialogue and a terrific score. This movie isn’t loaded with pop tunes as with Anderson’s previous efforts, but the ambience in general is terrific, and the occasional dynamic sonic punctuations (especially the storm scenes) add impressive punch when warranted. The extras are few and short but, thanks to Murray, droll and funny while they last

Studio: Universal, 2012
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 94 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis