In Moonrise Kingdom, director Wes Anderson’s weakness for whimsy follows a natural progression. After an early career (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou) of creating artificial adults for his artificial worlds, Anderson now focuses on a targeted population that would seem a natural fit for his false flightiness: 12-year-olds.
But what seems like would be a good fit isn’t. In Anderson-world, children talk like adults, and adults talk like two screenwriters churning out endless passages that they hope will sound clever and inspired but end up sounding quaint, forced and often ridiculous.
For some reason, Anderson, with co-writer Roman Coppola, places Moonrise in 1965. On a small, isolated island, 12-year-old Sam (Jared Gilman) runs away from his scout camp one night. His scoutmaster (Edward Norton) and the local sheriff (Bruce Willis) begin a search about the same time local girl Suzy (Kara Hayward) also goes missing, adding her parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) to the hunt.
Sam and Suzy have planned their escape together, an exercise that seems geared simply to allow the two children to deliver more Andersonianly-whimsical dialogue.
As the hunt continues, any hoped-for effect from having children talking like adults wears thin. The search continues, the two kids act precocious, stuff happens. Is it over yet?
Anderson infiltrates every frame as he fills his screens with activity, much of which seems to be little more than distractions. It shows an active hand, but one that adds little to the overall effect. It’s almost as if he wants to give his audiences so much that he does not know how to stop himself.
In fairness, and possibly explaining Anderson’s dedicated fans, not all of the contrived phoniness is without merit. He often has deft, well-composed single shots to complement his frequent use of dolly shots that call attention to the director while accomplishing little else.
And no matter how inane the on-screen activity, Anderson usually adds some flavor and personality with his musical selections, with original contributions here from Mark Mothersbaugh and Alexandre Desplat as well as songs from Hank Williams and Benjamin Britten.
Rated PG-13, 94 minutes.
Opens Friday at the Angelika Dallas.