“I want to go on adventures, I think.”

I think I may love Moonrise Kingdom more than any other Wes Anderson film.

Sam Shakusky, the hero of Moonrise Kingdom, is an awkward 12-year-old boy. An orphan living in a foster home for troubled boys in 1965, he is the only one who doesn’t look like an extra in Rebel Without A Cause. Tough guys, the other boys are all in white T-shirts and blue jeans and their hair is greased into a perfect sheen. But Sam has a mop of black curls and a tiny frame and is as weird and precocious as the other boys are conforming. He’s the sort of kid who, when asked what he wants to do when he grows up, says, “I want to go on adventures, I think.” This makes him endearing to me, but to others he’s just off; when Sam’s scout leader calls the foster home to say that he’s run away from camp, Sam’s foster father says that he doesn’t want Sam to return.

In the incredibly arch Moonrise Kingdom, where writer-director Wes Anderson laces most intense emotions with irony, this moment is so awful, the audience laughs in discomfort, but the three adults listening to the foster father – Scoutmaster Randy Ward (Ed Norton), local cop Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), and the phone operator – are visibly, indelibly saddened. Like in Roald Dahl’s children’s stories, in Moonrise Kingdom both humor and pain, and irony and sincerity exist side-by-side. The result is a profoundly entertaining and also profound film that matches and perhaps surpasses Anderson’s best achievements, which include the minor classics Rushmore, The Royal Tanenbaums, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was based on a Dahl story. Continue…