October 2012

Moonrise KingdomWes Anderson Creates a Storybook World on Blu-ray

Universal 62123585
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment

Picture Quality

Sound Quality


Starting with Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson has created a string of movies very unlike typical Hollywood films. They deal with real issues but in a storybook way. All of his films offer subtle humor through warm, often wacky characters we can root for. In a way, the movies are like contemporary fairytales. Throughout his various projects (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Fantastic Mr. Fox among them), Anderson has emerged as a director with a refreshing vision.

The latest Anderson-stylized masterpiece, Moonrise Kingdom, takes place on the fictitious New Penzance, an island off the coast of New England where the only automobile allowed belongs to Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), the community's sole police officer. The island is home to Camp Ivanhoe, where the Khaki Scouts hold forth in pup tents, led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton). One morning, the scouts discover that Khaki Scout Sam (Jared Gilman) is missing, and it soon becomes clear that he has run away with Suzy (Kara Hayward). The two 12-year-olds had met a year earlier during a local performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera, Noye’s Fludde.

The runaways meet up in a meadow. Sam is loaded down with camping equipment and flowers for Suzy, who brings her books, her kitten, and a record player borrowed from her brother. They have an idyllic life for a bit, and they discover a cove, which they christen Moonrise Kingdom. But the adults, who have gone crazy over the loss, soon find them and bring them back. Suzy returns to her parents, Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), but Sam has no home so Captain Sharp takes him in. Aided by the rebellious Khaki Scout troop, the young wannabe lovers escape again, this time with more serious consequences, which include a hurricane that pummels the island.

Penzance, of course, reminds one of Gilbert and Sullivan and the comic artificial situations set up in their operettas. You'll also see shades of Peter Pan and The Lost Boys. There's even a scene late in the film where Suzy reads to the scout troop much as Wendy read to the boys.

The storybook world is beautifully delineated on the Blu-ray. Colors are bright yet never glaring, skin tones are just right, and shadow detail is excellent. The original music score is by Alexandre Desplat, but much of the time the music comes from the works of Benjamin Britten -- The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, the Simple Symphony, and Noye’s Fludde. It's all wonderfully reproduced in spacious sound, with subwoofer frequencies reserved for the storm. Most American audiences stampede for the exits the minute the credit roll starts, but you'll be rewarded if you let this one play out. The movie opens with Britten's guide to the orchestral instruments, and the end credits, after giving us the final fugue of the same work, introduce the instruments again -- this time to new music.

There aren't many extras, just a handful of production featurettes, but some of those feature Murray and humor as droll as that in the movie. Moonrise Kingdom is a small miracle of a film. If you're tired of the huge, empty gestures of the typical Hollywood offering, it will refresh and rejuvenate.

Be sure to watch for: In the middle of chapter 5, there's a flashback to the time Sam and Suzy first met. I've always wanted to see a production of Noye’s Fludde, a piece that's meant to take count of local resources, mixing amateur performers with professionals, and this one looks exactly right. It fits perfectly into Anderson's storybook concept.

. . . Rad Bennett