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Touching mo ments in boy-scout escape

Moonrise Kingdom

(12A, general release, 94 minutes)

Director: Wes Anderson Stars: Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton


If Wes Anderson did not exist, it would be pretty hard to invent him. Although in his early films (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) Mr Anderson's debt to the works of JD Salinger in general and Franny and Zooey in particular was perhaps a little too obvious, the writer and director has expanded his palate considerably since.

Every film he makes adds an extra flavour to his exceedingly particular and defiantly eccentric fictional world.

Fond as I am of Tenenbaums, for me Fantastic Mr Fox is his finest and most complete film to date, and though that was ostensibly a children's stop-motion animation, its presence is felt in this rather more grown-up comic romance.

A peripatetic adventure seen in part through the eyes of two vulnerable teens, Moonrise Kingdom is set on a small, idyllic island a few miles off the New England coast. It's 1965, but Anderson's version of 1965, and the film's whimsical plot revolves around the disappearance of a boy scout.

When scout master Randy Ward (Edward Norton) calls the roll one September morning, he discovers that Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) has fled.

Hilariously, he zipped up his tent from the inside and cut an escape hatch in the tent wall. When his troop set out to find him, they do so armed with clubs and knives, because Sam has an abrasive personality and is not universally loved.

It emerges that the resourceful 12-year-old has made a pact with a local girl called Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) to run away together.

In the end they don't get very far, but their grand gesture does alert the adults around them to some serious issues.

As ever with Anderson, deadpan humour, dysfunctional families and arcane cultural references are stirred into a slight but compelling broth.

Bill Murray and Frances McDormand play the young Suzy's distracted but well-meaning parents, Bruce Willis is excellent as the island's lonely sheriff, and Tilda Swinton sweeps in and out playing a harpy from social services.

For all its cleverness, cartoon humour and meticulous detail, Moonrise Kingdom has a heart, and there's something really touching about Sam and Suzy's Romeo and Juliet routine.

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