It wasn’t until I turned 26 when I suddenly realized why old people insist their youth was much better. I remember that moment vividly. It was 1995 and I was working in the warehouse of Service Merchandise at the mall, filling orders as they popped up on the printer. I had an order in my hand and as I rushed off down the length of the warehouse it just occurs to my why they all say this. Yeah, that was a turning point in my life to have that “epiphany.” In fact that “epiphany” came in what I call the “weird chapte of my life” between the break up I had with this girl in summer of ’92 and my near fatal car accident in Fall of ’96.
I was born in 1969 and those first two decades of life were the good ‘ole days. Moonrise Kingdom takes place in 1965, which would mean four years earlier those good ‘ole days were probably even better. This is one reason why I love this movie; the second is it reminds me of childhood, even though the lead character, Sam Shukusky (Jared Gilman), was nothing like me. He was a very adept boy scout, I was not, but I did have a friend who was one. A boy scout. I’m not sure how adept he was at it. Sam’s an orphan as well. I was not, though there were times I wish I were. Reason #3 why I responded to with this movie, outside of the era it took place in, was Sam’s puppy love for this girl he met at this church play she was a part of. Her name is Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). The girl I had a crush on around that same twelve-year-old age was Lisa Lafountain. Suzy’s got anger issues; she’s punched a mirror, thrown a rock through a window at her mother and went after another student in class she was arguing with. Lisa and Suzy are light years apart, but the puppy love crush Sam and she have for each other takes me back to those three years in grade school I was crushing on Lisa. And the final reason I love this flick is that it’s plain funny. Not just any funny but Wes Anderson funny.
I didn’t know who Wes Anderson was until I saw The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) in fall of 2006. Since then, not counting Moonrise and Aquatic, I’ve seen two other movies of his: The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and I love all of them to varying degrees.
In Moonrise it’s the kids that are the main characters and when Sam and Suzy run away that’s our main story. But there’s something of a time limit here in finding them. A hurricane is en route and we know this from Bob Balaban who plays the movie’s narrator. Not just the narrator but also a character in the movie when he’s not addressing the camera with his clairvoyant out of time interludes warning we the viewers about the coming storm.
As far as the adults in this movie go it’s got some accomplished ones and ones Wes likes to use from time to time in his other movies. Bill Murray (The Life Aquatic, The Grand Budapest Hotel) plays Suzy’s father, Walt, with wife and mother, Laura, being played by Francis McDormand (Dark Man, Fargo). Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk, Fight Club) is Sam’s Scout Master, Ward, who’s also a Math teacher, but he considers his primary job the Scout Master. Bruce Willis (Moonlighting series, Blind Date) and Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Constantine) are also in there as Police Captain Duffy Sharp and Social Services, as she’s only ever referred to, respectively. Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited, The Grand Budapest Hotel) is Cousin Ben, a fellow scout, who steps in at the eleventh hour to “marry” Suzy and Sam and provide safe passage, which quickly turns to comic shit. Last but never least is the sudden appearance of Harvey Keitel playing Commander Pierce. A higher-up on the Boy Scout food chain on an adjacent island. His appearance is constructed perfectly to make you go, “Holy shit, Harvey Keitel!!” if you weren’t aware he was in it, and I wasn’t.
Moonrise Kingdom is a sliver of small island life where the scenery is gorgeous, the characters are sometimes odd, but nonetheless relatable and the comedy comedic. Having said that there are two shocking scenes I didn’t expect to see in a Wes Anderson flick where kids are driving the tale. The first is the death of Snoopy, the mascot of Camp Ivanhoe that Sam ran away from. During a confrontation, where Ward orders a small group of scouts to go and find Sam, a stray arrow is shot killing the dog, though we never see it. But we do see his dead body with the arrow sticking bloodily out of his neck. And the next is Suzy’s anger when during previously mentioned confrontation (Sam never got along with the other scouts) she stabs one of the boys in the side with a pair of scissors she brought along. One of many things she packed for the runaway. Not in the ass, or in the arm, or some place you can live after being stabbed, she stabbed the kid basically where a future love handle would presuming the kid reaches middle age. The kid lives, of course, but that kind of stab, in a location like that, done a lot herder, and more viciously, could be a guaranteed death. I guess you could consider these two “shocks” the hard realities of adult hood. Dogs sometimes die horribly by bow and arrow and kids sometimes stab other kids with scissors.
Moonrise Kingdom had two previous releases from Universal Studios back in 2012 before Criterion laid claim to any and all Wes Anderson movies. Criterion puts their version out on September 22nd in separate DVD and blu-ray editions. I preferred their combos, but apparently they took a poll and found out collectors don’t want combos coming from them, so back to separate releases it was.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only
I never bought the previous Universal release so I can comment specifically on how great this one compares, but this new Wes Anderson approved 2K digital restoration looked pretty great.
- Commentary With Director/Producer/Writer Wes Anderson, Actors Bill Murray, Edward Norton And Jason Schwartzman And Writer Roman Coppola
- The Making Of “Moonrise Kingdom”
- – Exploring The Set (17:11)
- – Storyboard Animatics And Narrator Test (Opening Sequence/Church Flashback/The Island of New Penzance/The Island Of St. Jack Wood—Play All (8:39) or separately)
- – Auditions (4:34)
- – Miniatures (1:38)
- Welcome To New Penzance (4:01)
- Set Tour With Bill Murray (2:59)
- Benjamin Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde” (1:53)
- Eleven iPhone Videos By Edward Norton (Play All (20:48) or separately)
- Animated Books (4;14)
- Cousin Ben (2:02)
- Booklet, Map Of The Island, Period Cast Photo Circa 1965, And A Flyer For Noye’s Fludde.
Since I only know of these kids through this movie it was wild seeing them in their auditions with their normal 21st century hairstyles, looking nothing like their fictional ’65 counterparts. It made me realize how much I miss my long hair.
Most of the extras I enjoyed are the behind-the-scenes ones, which comprises most of the Making Of, Welcome To New Penzance, Murray’s set tour, the 11 iphone videos. Check out the hilarious Cousin Ben comedy bit, which is Schwartzman and the kids in character as they screen Moonrise Kingdom for the camp in this tent.