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'Moonrise Kingdom' shows Wes Anderson at his Wes Anderson best

I have a message for all of the film critics calling for director Wes Anderson to change his style and make movies "differently": Shut the hell up. He has a signature style that is all his own, and I couldn't love it more. All you haters can go watch some Michael Bay films.

As for Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson's return to live action after the wonderful Fantastic Mr. Fox, we get the most "Wes Anderson" of all the Wes Anderson movies. It's also one of the year's best films.

Every shot is seen through Anderson's abstract, surreal, just-plain-odd eye, and the way he views the world remains highly entertaining. Co-written with Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom contains all of the Anderson signatures: odd musical choices, tableau shot setups and the trademark slow-motion cast walk.

It's funny: I want to jump into the screen when Michael Bay does his slow-motion cast walks and trip all of the actors. Yet when Anderson does the same thing, I can't get enough of it.

The story here is set in 1965, and Sam the Khaki Scout (newcomer Jared Gilman) has flown the coop during a camping expedition, worrying Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton, in his funniest performance yet). Sam runs away with Suzy (Kara Hayward, also a newcomer), and they have themselves a romantic couple of days while parents and authority figures frantically search for them.

The puppy-love story is treated with the sort of storybook grace one would expect from Anderson. Sam and Suzy's dance in their underwear on the beach is a thing to behold, as is their courageous stand against a pack of Khaki Scouts looking to capture the missing duo and return them to Scout Master Ward. The aftermath of the Khaki Scout attack is classic Anderson.

As for the authority figures, there are Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Suzy's messed-up parents. Murray is always at his best in the land of Anderson, and this film is no exception; nobody plays comically cranky and confused like Murray. And McDormand has a bathroom scene with Hayward that might be her best piece of acting since Fargo.

Then there's Bruce Willis as the sympathetic and sad police officer who is heading up the search for the children. Willis, an Anderson first-timer, has a nice return to grace after a bad streak that included Cop Out and some straight-to-video fare. Norton kills it as the by-the-numbers scoutmaster who, despite all of his efforts to earnestly take care of his kids, often has a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth while just a few feet away from them.

There are many moments in this movie that are among my favorites of 2012. In one scene, a member of the Khaki Scouts has a change of heart while hanging out in their treehouse, delivering a rousing speech to his fellow scouts—despite the fact that a big chunk of their shelter collapses during his delivery. It's just one of those great moments that only Anderson could come up with. And let it be said that no movie since Caddyshack has utilized the dreaded lightning strike with such comedic success.

If you aren't an Anderson fan, this movie won't enthrall you. But if you are an Anderson fan, prepare to fall madly in love with this film.

Please, Mr. Anderson, ignore all the dummies asking you to make a Wes Anderson movie that isn't a Wes Anderson movie. Your style is yours all alone, and if you were to diverge from it, I just might cry.

Moonrise Kingdom
Rated PG-13 · 94 minutes · 2012
Official Site: www.moonrisekingdom.com/#home
Director: Wes Anderson
Producer: Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson, Sam Hoffman and Mark Roybal
Cast: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bob Balaban, Lucas Hedges, Charlie Kilgore, Andreas Sheikh, Chandler Frantz, Rob Campbell, L.J. Foley, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Tommy Nelson, Larry Pine, Marianna Bassham, Neal Huff and Eric Anderson

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More by Bob Grimm

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What others are saying (14)

Colorado Springs Independent Endless summer: Moonrise Kingdom The film's another of Wes Anderson's dollhouses, unavoidably, but with its windows open and without any shortage of fresh air in circulation. by Jonathan Kiefer 06/20/2012
Indy Week A benign, cozy world in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom Anderson makes us long to be in the shoes of these characters by sealing his universe into a well-haberdashed container of nostalgia. by Nathan Gelgud 06/27/2012
11 more reviews...
Chicago Reader Wes Anderson reigns benevolent over Moonrise Kingdom Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Edward Norton star in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom by Ben Sachs 05/30/2012
The Coast Halifax Moonrise Kingdom The kids are all right by Molly Segal 06/14/2012
Creative Loafing Charlotte Moonrise Kingdom takes the crown Rating: ***1/2 by Matt Brunson 06/29/2012
East Bay Express Moonrise Kingdom Island of lost souls. by Kelly Vance 06/13/2012
Style Weekly The Least Dangerous Game Wes Anderson captures a return to form in the whimsical "Moonrise Kingdom." by Wayne Melton 06/26/2012
Arkansas Times Wes Anderson returns to form in 'Moonrise Kingdom' After triumphs with "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums," the writer/director and quirk auteur Wes Anderson overreached and faded. by Sam Eifling 06/27/2012
Portland Mercury Child's Play Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson just keeps making Wes Anderson movies! by Alison Hallett 06/07/2012
Memphis Flyer Love is Strange Wes Anderson's encouraging return with teen adventure-romance Moonrise Kingdom. by Chris Herrington 06/28/2012
Charleston City Paper Moonrise Kingdom is whimsical, but doesn't get bogged down in twee In Moonrise Kingdom, director-to-the-hipster-set Wes Anderson may have finally stumbled upon a cinematic sweet spot in which utter preciousness doesn't drown out the genuine charm of his film. by Felicia Feaster 06/22/2012

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