(director/writer: Wes Anderson; screenwriter: Roman Coppola; cinematographer: Robert Yeoman; editor: Andrew Weisblum; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Bruce Willis (Captain Sharp), Edward Norton (Scout Master Ward), Bill Murray (Mr. Bishop), Frances McDormand (Mrs. Bishop), Tilda Swinton (Social Services), Jared Gilman (Sam Shakusky), Kara Hayward (Suzy), Jason Schwartzman (Cousin Ben), Bob Balaban (the Narrator), Harvey Keitel (Commander Pierce); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Wes Anderson/Scott Rudin/Steven Rales/Jeremy Dawson; Focus Features; 2012)


“A sweet love story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums”/”Bottle Rocket”/”The Darjeeling Limited“) lovingly tells a sweet love story of two brainy but misfit 12-year-olds, who fall in love and have the guts to run away together. Anderson co-writes it with regular writer Roman Coppola. They keep things in the artificial world they created lighthearted and not that different from the real world and keep the love affair between the young lovers serious and emotionally charged. There are many big stars in the film, but they don’t have much to do. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, the likable two young newcomer leads, steal all the scenes from the stars, whose parts are underwritten and too glibly presented to offer much excitement. Kingdom is set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, and though it depicts a fantasy world it nevertheless seems like an authentic place thanks to the director’s eye for details.

Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) is a gifted adolescent who becomes upset that her uptight lawyer parents (Bill Murray & Frances McDormand) are reading a pamphlet entitled “Coping With the Very Troubled Child,” that she has three younger brothers who cling together against her and that she lives in a lighthouse. Later when Suzy is in her dressing room before an amateur church performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera “Noye’s Fludde,” she meets her soul mate Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman). The nerdy looking Sam, wearing thick glasses, appears unannounced in her dressing room in his scout uniform and tells her how much he likes her before kicked out by the adult supervisor. Sam’s an orphan living with unreceptive foster parents and is the most disliked though brightest member in his Khaki Scout troop, whose befuddled Scout leader is the school’s math teacher Ward (Edward Norton).

A year later Sam runs away from Khaki Scout camp at Camp Ivanhoe to meet Suzy in a prearranged destination on the island of New Penzance, where they reside. They rename their idyllic cove hideout Moonrise Kingdom, and the kids engage mischievously in their chaste affair while the Scouts, police and parents act alarmed and organize a search party. The island’s chief law officer, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), a bachelor is having an affair with Mrs. Bishop. He learns Sam is being sent back to Child Welfare by his disgruntled foster parents because he’s labeled as emotionally disturbed. The Captain feels sorry for the kid and assumes the role of protector, though pressured by Mrs. Bishop to fetch her Suzy. The dreadful social worker administrator named Social Services (Tilda Swinton) shows up the next day and talks about electric shock treatment as a cure for Sam’s errant behavior, which makes the Captain wince. Meanwhile Suzy’s devious con artist scout leader cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman) performs for the young romantics a marriage ceremony that is not binding, before the feuding adults close ranks and find the kids. The jolly narrator (Bob Balaban) gives us a blow-by-blow account of that runaway incident, of the island’s geography and of how a powerful hurricane did damage to the island that summer.

The beauty of this oddball story is in the heart-felt way Anderson connects with the kids and makes their bad seem beautiful when compared to how ugly most of the adults in the film act.