It is 1965, and in three days the small New England Island of New Penzance is preparing for a major hurricane in 3 days. On one side of the island is Camp Ivanhoe, where Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) is a drill sergeant to the Khaki Scouts of Troop 55. One morning, when he checks on his young recruits, he discovers that 12-year-old Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is missing. Sam left a note in his tent stating he was quitting the scouts. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Island is Summers End, where the Bishop family lives. Attorneys Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand) Bishop have four children. Their eldest, Suzy (Kara Hayward) had met Sam a year earlier at a school play, and the two had made plans to go away together. So she runs away to meet up with Sam. The two of them then trek across the Island, learning more about one another and falling in love.
While Scout Master Ward mobilizes the troops to look for Sam, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) of the Island Police starts a search for Suzy. Once they realize the two children ran off together, they combine their efforts. The film explores Sam and Suzy’s first love and family issues, as well as the issues going on in the adults’ lives.
I knew nothing about this film before watching it for review—just that it was directed by Wes Anderson and had an amazing cast. I have never really been a Wes Anderson fan, and I think I should just resolve that it isn’t going to happen.
First of all, I didn’t really care for the look and style of the film. The picture has a yellow tone to it, to add to the nostalgic 60s feel of the film. However, I found the excessive grain too distracting at times. The nighttime scenes are even worse—those take on a blue hue that either makes the scenes look too fake, or makes them so dark that you couldn’t see what was going on.
Throughout the film, a Narrator (Bob Balaban) cuts in to speak directly to the camera. He is either trying to explain what is going on or frame the next scene. I found this distracting as well—it was like this movie wanted to be some sort of a Shakespeare play. Overall, it seemed like Anderson was more interested in getting artsy, scenic shots, and was less concerned about actually having a well developed plot. I’m OK with a character-driven story for television where you have 13-22 episodes a year in which to explore the characters. But for a 90-minute movie, I want the film to have solid story with a beginning, middle and end. Any plot and expectations that Moonrise Kingdom does set up at the beginning never really pay off in the end.
As for the characters, I actually found Sam a bit creepy, and didn’t see any chemistry between him and Suzy. I couldn’t believe these two would even be friends let alone in love with one another. The adult characters, on the other hand, were more interesting, and I would have liked to see more about them. Anderson brought together an amazing cast, but some of them were way under-utilized. Edward Norton’s performance as Scout Master Ward was the highlight of the film for me. The other scouts were also interesting and were a good potential source of humor, but they were also under-utilized. I think I would have preferred an actual comedy film just about Ward and his Khaki Scout troop. This film was more concerned with creating quirky, weird characters and shots and less about plot or humor.
I think fans of Wes Anderson will enjoy this film as it seems similar to his past works both in look and feel. However, for a comedy, I found hardly anything humorous, and a lack of plot or focus. So I would recommend a rental first if you are unfamiliar with Anderson’s other work.
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DTS, DVS (Descriptive Video Service)
- English SDH, Spanish, French subtitles
- Audio: English 5.1 DD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, DVS (Descriptive Video Service)
- English SDH, Spanish, French subtitles
Ultraviolet and Digital Copy:
- Ultraviolet copy for Universal, Flixster or Vudu
- Digital Copy for iTunes or Windows Media
- A Look Inside Moonrise Kingdom (3:07)
The cast and creators recap the plot of the film, and talk about the characters. This served as an ad for the theatrical release of the film.
- Welcome to the Island of New Penzance (6:11)
Bob Balaban, in his character from the film, narrates four short featurettes. Each talks about one of the folks involved in the film: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Wdward Norton, Wes Anderson featuring clips and behind the scenes footage. Once again, these served as ads for the film.
- Set Tour with Bill Murray (3:09)
Bill Murray gives a tongue-in-cheek talk about his fellow co-stars, and what it was like working on the film.
As mentioned in the review, I found the yellow/blue tone and graininess of the film a bit too distracting, but there are some artsy scenic shots. The sound, on the other hand, was well done. All of the dialog is clear, and the soundtrack and effects are well integrated.
The bonus features included on this Blu-ray are really disappointing. They basically consist of a few short featurettes that were created to market the film when it was coming to theaters. No effort has been made to include anything new for the home video release.
As I said in my review, I really wasn’t a fan of this film—from the minimal plot to the stylized look, I found this severely lacking in humor for a comedy. For fans of Wes Anderson, this is probably an instant buy despite the lack of bonus features, but for others, I’d recommend a rental first.