Fuel for flaming youth
‘Moonrise Kingdom’, 2012, cert, 12A, dir Wes Anderson, 3/5

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A friend of mine declared that if all films were racially categorised (like Spike Lee films are classed as black cinema) Moonrise Kingdom would be labelled in the white middle class genre. He does have a point, as this is a Wes Anderson film and most of his films would fit this label. Certainly his latest work, like all his films, glows with that warm, quirky, indie character of his which both annoys and charms me.

Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s (when the island doesn’t even have proper roads or towns yet), the character and quirkiness of the island’s peaceful, close-knit community is exaggerated to place the audience in their comfort zone, along with the warmth and colour exuding from the unusual shots and soundtrack.

But a storm is brewing (the worst to hit the island in history) and the community is thrown into chaos after two young adolescents (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in impressive performances) both considered ‘emotionally disturbed’ outsiders, run away together. The hunt is organised by the exasperated parents of the girl (Anderson favourite Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and the well meaning chief of police (Bruce Willis in a surprisingly gentle role) and an order-obsessed Scoutmaster (in a funny turn from Edward Norton).

The film is full of charm, comedy and emotion but it is a little too quirky to the point of being annoying and unrealistic. If that matters little to you though, it’s an enjoyable ride.  

‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, 2009, cert. PG, dir. Wes Anderson, 2/5 stars

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I already read the book by Roald Dahl many years ago and I’ve seen some of Mr Anderson’s other films recently. I still enjoy memories of the book as a slightly weird tale of the trickery of woodland animals pitted against some unpleasant farmer characters, which unsurprisingly for genius Dahl had a dark, violent edge. I also enjoyed what I’ve seen of Anderson, especially the Darjeeling Limited. This film, however, just made me enjoy the book more.

The film did look and sound brilliant, with flawless stop motion animation, country soundtrack and gorgeous textures and colours. However, the book’s dark edge that I spoke of before had been replaced by American cutesiness. The previously nasty villains were presented as laughable idiots and the supposedly ‘wild’ animals were far too humanised. I just got the impression that this film was trying to do too much with a simple story that previously worked fine.  I wasn’t sure what age it was attempting to direct at. It seemed too complicated at times for children, and the over the top action scenes didn’t help. The traditionalist side of me was also annoyed at the Americanisation of a previously British story, even if the efforts of actors like George Clooney were pleasant to listen to. I did enjoy the film but I just feel it could have been improved if it retained the traditional, dark feel of the book and cut down on the action scenes, the humanisation of the characters and the cutesy humour.