Moonrise Kingdom

In theaters.

Director Wes Anderson consistently uses an immediately recognizable, easily parodied style—something that's earned him a great deal of ridicule along with his success—so it's rather sweet, honestly, that he's sticking by it, haters be damned. No one's going to kill his love of slow-motion tracking shots, rapid character-to-character pans, relentlessly symmetrical framing, and intricately idiosyncratic, dollhouse-like sets.

And although I've giggled over the sheer obviousness of Anderson's signature aesthetic, I have to admit that I think it works in context, even if many of the shots look absurd in isolation. Anderson's style serves his pet themes well. His movies dwell on loneliness and sadness, a nostalgia for a time that never truly existed and a yearning for what can never be, and the preciousness of the visuals provides an added poignance, a sort of Charlie Brown–style melancholy. It's no coincidence that The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson's greatest film) goes so far as to include Vince Guaraldi's iconic Charlie Brown Christmas theme on the soundtrack.

Moonrise Kingdom doesn't reach the heights of Tenenbaums (which I consider a genuine masterpiece), but it does represent a return to form after the unevenness (to put it charitably) of The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited. Wistful and idealistic and perversely funny, Moonrise is classic Anderson. If you could never stand the guy's movies, there's no way you'll make it through his latest, but if you consider "she's my Rushmore" a beautiful tribute and start crying at the first few bars of Elliott Smith's "Needle in the Hay," Moonrise is a lovely confection, less bittersweet than its predecessors but just as piquant and delicate.