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Scout's Honor

'Moonrise Kingdom' nostalgic for an era director Wes Andersen never knew

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MID-CENTURY MERIT BADGE Edward Norton plays a fearless Scout leader.
  • MID-CENTURY MERIT BADGE Edward Norton plays a fearless Scout leader.

There's one unposed moment in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. Frances McDormand plays Laura, a raging mother (she shouts at her children through a bullhorn most of the time) whose rebellious daughter, Suzy (Kara Hayward), has run away. When Laura discovers the girl hiding at the secluded cove that gives the movie its name, the way in which she picks up Suzy is an unpremeditated gesture in an otherwise exquisitely art-directed, scrupulously composed, Kodachromed-magic-playset of a movie.

Moonrise Kingdom is, in a word, adorable. Watching it is like going into a dismayingly expensive toyshop filled with mid-1960s items, so recognizable to a child of those days. (Anderson was born in 1969, so Moonrise Kingdom exudes nostalgia for an age he didn't know.)

In September 1965, gifted 12-year-olds Suzy and Sam (Jared Gilman) head off to the wilderness of the fictional New England island of New Penzance. A sad constable (Bruce Willis) and an intrepid "Khaki Scouts" leader (Edward Norton) go looking for them. It's fortunate that Sam's skills as a woodsman can keep the pair safe; what they don't know is that Hurricane Maybelline is heading for the island.

Hayward's Suzy is well-cast, wearing a serious amount of dark-blue eye shadow with a Bonnie Parker beret, and Gilman and Hayward demonstrate flawless precociousness, but the conceit proves uneven. The adults are all duds compared to the purity of the children, naturally. Harvey Keitel plays the scout commander, and Jason Schwartzman shows up at the Khaki Scout camp as well. As Suzy's father, Bill Murray reprises the checked-out, drinker's gloom he embodied in Rushmore.

Moonrise Kingdom has dollhouse aesthetics and New Yorker cartoon punch lines. Once again, Anderson works in the uneasy space between an expensive children's book and a fable for adults.

'Moonrise Kingdom' opens Friday, June 8, at CineArts Sequoia in Mill Valley, Century Regency in San Rafael and Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa.

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