"Moonrise Kingdom," the story of two 12-year-old lovers who run away from their New England homes during the summer of 1965, may be Wes Anderson's most Andersonian movie yet. It's his clearest realization of an idealized adolescence made up of Mike Nichols' "The Graduate," Hal Ashby's "Harold and Maude" and J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye."
But adolescence is a trap if you can't leave it behind. In "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums," Anderson paid homage to his boyhood influences, but in "Moonrise Kingdom" he seems to forget that they were also stories about growing up. As a result, "Moonrise Kingdom" is a film of affectations and poses that mimic emotional depth without achieving it.
That, of course, is exactly what adolescents do. Precocious misfits Sam and Suzy (first-time actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both 12 during filming) are clearly playing at adulthood: Out in the woods, they shack up in a tent (Sam is a decorated "Khaki Scout") and even find a way to get married. Suzy comes from unhappy parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), though Sam is a foster child who's so independent and confident he feels like a wish fulfillment for Anderson.
Shot in the grainy yellows of Kodachrome snapshots and crammed with period details (vinyl records, endless cigarettes), "Moonrise Kingdom" both pines for an innocent era and mocks it. Edward Norton plays a grown man in a Scout uniform, Tilda Swinton is an icy bureaucrat named Social Services and Bridgehampton's Bob Balaban narrates with deadpan sarcasm. The film's two young stars either can't act or, more likely, weren't allowed to; aside from a rather moving Bruce Willis as a lonely cop, everyone here is playing a costume, not a role.
Though undeniably smart and charming, "Moonrise Kingdom" loves itself the way the callow Holden Caulfield loves himself: unconditionally. Salinger understood the problem with that. Anderson may not.
PLOT In 1965, two 12-year-olds run away from a small New England town. RATING PG-13 (sexual themes, smoking)
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Wes Anderson's latest is a bit too Andersonian: quirky, charming and overly fond of itself.