Story

Moonrise Kingdom is set in 1965 on New Penzance Island off the coast of New England. Sam (Jared Gilman) is a 12-year-old orphan and a member of the Khaki Scouts of North America. Sam is very smart and a deep thinker, but people think he is emotionally disturbed. He has trouble making friends and fitting in. Suzy (Kara Hayward) is also 12 years old and has trouble fitting in. She gets into trouble at school for attacking classmates who don’t understand her. Her parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand) frequently consult the book, Coping with the Very Troubled Child.

Unhappy with their lives, Sam and Suzy decide to run away together. They hike along an old trail and eventually set up camp in a deserted cove they call Moonrise Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the inhabitants of New Penzance – including the town’s policeman Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and a host of 12-year-old scouts – search frantically for Sam and Suzy. Eventually they find them and send Suzy back to her parents. Sam is about to be handed over to the Social Services and sent to an orphanage when, luckily for him and Suzy, the scouts and a hurricane come to their aid.

Themes

Death of parents and being an orphan; emotional problems; teenage romance

Violence

Moonrise Kingdom has occasional low-level violence (mainly implied), some low-level blood and gore and occasional intense danger. For example:

  • A montage of some of Sam and Suzy’s ‘emotionally disturbed’ behaviour shows the following scenes: Suzy shouting at another girl during class; Suzy throwing a desk over and attacking the girl; Suzy shouting at her parents and younger brothers; and Sam punching another boy in the crotch.
  • A troop of young scouts search for Sam and Suzy carrying weapons including a club with long spike protruding from it, bows and arrows, machetes and knives. Sam himself carries an air rifle.
  • During a battle between a group of armed scouts and Sam and Suzy, there is a lot of screaming. The scout troop runs away, with one boy holding a blood-covered hand over a wound in his lower back. Suzy is holding a small pair of blood-covered scissors. Sam and Suzy stand over a dead dog. The dog has an arrow sticking out from a bloody wound in its neck, apparently shot by one of the scouts. Later Sam accuses the boy of killing the dog and punches him in the back where he had earlier been stabbed by the scissors.
  • After Sam makes a pair of earrings for Suzy out of fishhooks, he pierces Suzy’s ears with the fishhooks. She whimpers in pain as the hooks go through her earlobes. A small trickle of blood runs down her neck.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • Sam stands on top of a hill with a violent lightning storm raging around him. Lightning arcs down from the sky and strikes Sam. The force of the lightning strike lifts Sam out of his shoes (his shoes are on fire) and throws him violently backwards. When Sam stands up, he doesn’t seem hurt but is completely black with soot.
  • During a flash flood in a scout camp, a large wooden pole falls onto a tent with a man inside. Fireworks explode inside the tent. With smoke pouring out of the tent, Scout Master Ward rescues the man, carrying him out on his back just as the front of the tent explodes in a fireball.
  • There is an image of a small dead dog with an arrow sticking out of a bloody wound in its neck. Sam pulls the arrow out of the dog’s neck with a squelching sound. Later the boy accused of killing the dog doesn’t show any remorse.
  • Sam and Suzy hold hands while standing at the top of a church steeple during a hurricane. They pledge to jump together and risk dying rather than being separated. Captain Sharp climbs the steeple to try to talk them down. Lightning strikes the steeple, which explodes. Captain Sharp dangles from a rope tied to the top of the church, and Sam and Suzy dangle from the rope below him. He pleads with Sam and Suzy not to let go. 

From 5-8

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above. There is also a scene where a group of scouts talk about Sam, saying that he is emotionally disturbed because his family died. Later there’s a discussion about how Social Services are going to place Sam in either a prison-like orphanage or a mental institution. There’s talk of giving Sam electric shock therapy or cutting out a piece of his brain. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. 

Over 13

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. 

Sexual references

Moonrise Kingdom contains some low-level sexual references and suggestions. For example:

  • Suzy’s mother has a secret meeting with Captain Sharp, telling him that they will have to stop seeing each other for the time being. Later Suzy’s mother says sorry to Suzy’s father for her affair with Captain Sharp without actually admitting to the affair. Suzy tells her mother that she knows about the affair.
  • Several scouts talk about whether Sam got to ‘second base’ with Suzy. One boy asks, ‘Over shirt or under shirt?’ 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie shows some use of substances. For example:

  • The main characters are constantly smoking cigarettes.
  • Sam smokes a pipe several times.
  • Several times Scout Master Ward has a large glass containing brandy next to him.
  • Captain Sharp pours a small beer for Sam. 

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie. For example:

  • Suzy and Sam dance together wearing underwear. Suzy asks Sam if he knows how to ‘french kiss’. She explains this is when your tongues touch when you kiss. They try to do it.
  • Suzy tells Sam that he can touch her breasts. He puts his hands on her breasts and squeezes them.
  • After Sam and Suzy (who are in their underwear) hug and passionately kiss each other, Sam says, ‘It feels hard. Do you mind?’ Suzy replies ‘No, I like it’. After Sam touches Suzy’s breasts, she says, ‘I think they’re going to grow more’.
  • Suzy sits in a bathtub with her knees pulled up against her chest. No nudity is shown other than the tops of her bare shoulders. We see a watercolour painting by Sam with an image of what appears to be Suzy naked in a bathtub. 

Product placement

None of concern 

Coarse language

This movie has some occasional low-level coarse language. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Moonrise Kingdom is a comedy romance directed by Wes Anderson that targets teenagers and adults. The movie has a slightly surreal feel and some quirky characters. It might not appeal to younger teenagers and isn’t recommended for children under 13, who might be disturbed by some scenes and themes. If you have younger teenagers, you might be concerned about scenes of teenage sexuality and children drinking and smoking.

The main message from this movie is that love is a powerful emotion that makes us capable of almost anything.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the independence, determination and endurance that Suzy and Sam show as they make decisions, track through the countryside and reach their goal. They do all this regardless of the obstacles in their way.

You might also want to talk about the way the movie romanticises Sam and Suzy’s story. Are Sam and Suzy’s actions acceptable and justified? Is their romance a normal part of growing up?