Friday, May 25, 2012

Eccentricity Island

Moonrise Kingdom       WWW Score: 75%

Give Wes Anderson the props he deserves, the guy wields a camera with prodigious precision. Tracking left-to-right, up and down - like a trippy cinematic version of 'Hollywood Squares' - the lauded left field director dollies around the 1960s New England island home of young Suzi Bishop (Kara Hayward in her film debut) as we hypnotically enter the quirky for quirky's sake 'Moonrise Kingdom'.

Suzi's imprisoned inside with her three younger brothers and half-there lawyer parents, Walt and Laura (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).

In search of some thrills, lil' Suzi swipes her littler bro's portable record player (quirky) and flies the lighthouse-topped coop (quirky) to meet up with the crush of her young life, Sam Shakusky, a "Khaki Scout" (quirky) who is AWOL himself.

The entire island is soon in pursuit of the pair. Scout Master Ward (an exceptional Ed Norton) and his troop of armed-with-clubs-with-embedded-nails scouts (quirky), police captain Sharp (a solid Bruce Willis) and yes, Suzi's parents. As for Sam, the foster home he calls home has no interest in having the strange kid return.

Set up as an offbeat tale of puppy love, Anderson doesn't deliver on the love part. Sam - played by Jared Gilman - might as well be androgynous. Think of him as the son of the SNL character Pat. What young girl would have a crush on such a bizarre boy? Certainly not Hayward, who's badly miscast as Suzi. Anderson needed a nerdier/more homely match for the spectacularly geeky Sam and his puzzling pattern of speech.

But Anderson's biggest casting crime is that of Bill Murray, not for the revered recluse's inclusion but rather his uselessness. Why bother bringing Murray on board when he's utterly wasted - and that has zero to do with inebriation.

For a guy who selects a solitary film of his choosing seemingly every few years, Murray picked the wrong project.

Anderson gets love from the movie community thanks to an impressive resume of idiosyncratic offerings but 'Moonrise Kingdom' never truly connects on any level. It's a collection of cockeyed ideas compressed into a narrative that's utterly devoid of any actual attachment.

While his technical skills are unquestionably exquisite in the 'Kingdom', don't fall for Anderson's visually striking sirens' call. There's a wicked good chance you'll find yourself beached on an overly eccentric - and oddly empty - island.