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7/9/2012 8:03:00 AM
MOVIE REVIEW: Moonrise Kingdom mostly appeals to juveniles
Jared Gilman stars in Moonrise Kingdom.Niko Tavernise/Focus Features
Jared Gilman stars in Moonrise Kingdom.

Niko Tavernise/Focus Features

David Kanowsky
Kudos Movie Critic, The Movie Man


Moonrise Kingdom is a movie with an odd twist. It deals with two 12-year old children, a boy and a girl, who are experiencing the onset of adolescence. The hormonal drive that accompanies the change is explored explicitly on film. Meanwhile there is an adult affair we are made aware of, but it is barely mentioned and not at all visually displayed.

The story takes place in 1965 on a small island off the coast of New England. There are some residential areas, but the island is better known for its summer program of campgrounds for the Khaki Scouts. That's a highly organized boys' organization, where the youths learn every aspect of self-reliance and survival in the rough. The scoutmasters are strict disciplinarians, and the scouts are well trained to listen, follow and obey.

That is, all except Sam.

Sam is a 12-year-old lad who lives with foster parents, since his parents died. He is a nerdy, unhappy boy who is seen as mentally disturbed and troublesome. He sneaks away one night, leaving a note that he is quitting the scouts. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) calls police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) to initiate a search. Sharp calls the foster parents and they are not interested in having Sam back.

We now learn that Sam met a girl, Suzy, who lives on the island. They have been friends for a year. Suzy is unhappy at home with her dysfunctional parents, Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). Suzy is the oldest of the brood with three young brothers who are mostly occupied with digital diversions. Walt is totally detached from the whole family, including his wife. The adult affair mentioned above is between Laura and Captain Sharp, a bachelor.

Sam's flight from camp is for a rendezvous with Suzy. They had been planning the escape for a year and hope to have a better life in a remote corner of the island. Sam has expert skills in survival and camping, so they are safe and comfortable in all aspects of their adventure. The entire community goes on an island-wide search for the missing children. Moonrise Kingdom is the name of the beach where they set up camp. The pursuers do locate them but Sam manages to engineer an escape, over and over.

Moonrise Kingdom progresses, perhaps longer than necessary. The movie is written at a very juvenile level and while we root for the two budding sweethearts to get away, it doesn't seem to have much impact on us. The two protagonists, Suzy and Sam, played by Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman are consistently believable and engaging. Among the adults, Edward Norton is hilarious as the martinet scout leader who acts like a U.S. Marine Drill Sergeant. Frances McDormand gives a comic turn as the harassed mother who organizes her house with a bullhorn to communicate with husband and children. Bruce Willis is passable as the cop who is sympathetic to Sam's plight. And Bill Murray gives his usual stoic performance. Bob Balaban plays an island philosopher who narrates the story and who warns us of the massive storm that hits the island.

Moonrise Kingdom is rated PG13 and that's probably the low and high of the age range who will respond to the story.

Moonrise Kingdom is at the Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.

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