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Movie Review: 'Moonrise Kingdom' -- 3 stars

Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman, Jason Schwartzman in

Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman, Jason Schwartzman in "Moonrise." (Focus Features, Niko Tavernise) Credit: Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman, Jason Schwartzman in "Moonrise"(AP Photo/Focus Features, Niko Tavernise)

Moonrise Kingdom
3 stars
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand
Rated PG-13

In an era when so many movies indistinguishably blend, Wes Anderson's films stand apart. From "Rushmore" to "The Darjeeling Limited," the filmmaker has perfected a unique aesthetic centered on meticulous compositions, mannered quirks and carefully calibrated pastiche.

"Moonrise Kingdom," Anderson's latest, offers more of the same. But the film is so fundamentally opposed to the loud, explosions-oriented "Battleship" summer-movie sensibility that it's a pleasure to absorb, even if it's sometimes so stuffy it feels like it belongs in a museum.

First-time actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward star as 12-year-old lovers Sam and Suzy, who run away from their homes on the fictional New England island of Penzance during the summer of 1965. In hot pursuit are Suzy's incredulous parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand); Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis); and Sam's scout troop, led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton).

Incorporating midcentury iconography and bringing it alive through slow-motion, long takes and deliberate camera movements, Anderson creates what is essentially the cinematic version of a Norman Rockwell painting. The story of young love - which Anderson scripted with Roman Coppola - enhances the timeless, innocent aura. In that sense, though Anderson mainstay Bill Murray turns up, "Moonrise Kingdom" is removed from the worn-out sarcasm the filmmaker typically favors.

Still, the movie is beset by the hollowness that often hampers Anderson's work, with the characters often buried by the heavily processed art direction and pervasive whimsy. As per the director's norm, the film offers a triumph of style over substance. But sometimes, when it's not just typical summertime bombast, that’s what you need.


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