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Laocoön Alert: Moonrise Kingdom

Sweet. Charming. Cute. Adorable. Enchanting. Wondrous.

I am sorry to say that Moonrise Kingdom (2012) is none of these things.

Two twelve-year-olds—Sam (Jared Gilman), an orphan at a scout camp, and Suzy (Kara Hayward), an unhappy girl from a well-off family—run away together. The Scoutmaster (Edward Norton) and the police chief (Bruce Willis) try to find them.

But who cares? The characters are not real—neither the runaway kids nor the adults. This is a shallow cartoon. The fantastical nature of the film makes a joke of reality itself. Director Wes Anderson induced in me a great desire to run away also.

But it is worse than that. I am guessing that Anderson wants us to root for the young protagonists since he presents the adults as weak and foolish and incompetent. And of course the kids are wiser than the adults, who learn to be human because of the kids. What a cliché. And in this case the kids—Sam and Suzy—are not particularly interesting. In fact their quirkiness is annoying. Their supposed love story is simply awkward and falls flat. So why are we rooting for them anyway?

Moonrise Kingdom

There are many movies with kids who are truly engaging and wonderful and who interact with adults in an intelligent and moving way. For example: Alice in the Cities, Burning Secret, Dekalog 1, The Go-Between, Le Grand Chemin, Great Expectations, The Greengage Summer, Sabrina, Sundays and Cybèle, Treasure Island, The Winslow Boy. These films are overflowing with heart.


Watch these three videos and I think you will immediately see the difference.

Burning Secret

The Winslow Boy

Dekalog 1

In these films the characters are real and everything matters. But Moonrise Kingdom—while pretending to be a charming fairy tale filled with wise messages—is cynical, morally bankrupt, and without heart. In the end it affirms neither adulthood nor childhood.

Wes Anderson has given us a Trojan horse: Moonrise Kingdom looks like a magical gift on the outside but it carries inside it a destructive message for kids.

Moonrise Kingdom:       F

©   Richard Hobby

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