Comfort in familiarity is a commodity rife in all walks of life and in cinema it resonates more than ever. This isn’t anything new, the system’s been trading in nostalgia tinged talkies since its inception, but chasing down the dollar has become ever more reliant on sequels and the same old stories. Take the increasingly desperate Dan Ackroyd, a perfect case in study – the smile that graced your face at the first mention of Ghostbusters 3 has no doubt given way to a grimace. No Bill Murray, yet Ackroyd steamrolls on, encouraged by the box office success of Blues Brothers 2000; Dr. Pete Venkman be dammed.

A more imminent release and infinitely more upsetting is American Reunion, Stifler and his mum in tow along with a whole host of has-beens: a movie that’s been made simply to highlight jaded careers where once there was a glimmer. (Alright, nobody expected miracles from Mena Suvari and Jason Biggs, but bit parts in TV series American Horror Story and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (seriously) were not part of the agenda). Of course, familiarity in cinema isn’t all scraping that barrel or flogging that horse, there’s warmth in an auteur’s touch that offers audience reassurance.

Holding centre stage in the debate, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. A trailer has been circulating for months, but his heart-warming shtick seeped into the conscious of cinemagoers some 14 years ago with Rushmore and has been infiltrating the pop zeitgeist ever since. Trail-blazing TV series like Arrested Development made way to movies like Richard Ayoade’s magnificent Submarine, both indebted to Anderson’s acerbic wit, attention to detail and screamingly obvious signature style. He’s said it himself, “you can spot ‘em a mile off”, and from the opening words in Moonrise’s trailer, we are drowning in Wesism’s – “What kind of bird are you,” offers Jared Gilman’s Sam, a character central to the child romance that anchor’s the movie, his maturity and tone harking back to Rushmore’s Max Fischer. Jason Schwartzman would be proud and of course he’s present again, as is Bill Murray in a bad parenting role, the music of Françoise Hardy and all things Anderson. Roman Coppola, who worked with him on The Darjeeling Ltd, is back too, on scripting duties. Anderson’s always leant heavily on notions of friendship and family and these themes return here.

With love and loyalty central to his stories, you get the feeling he’s no Hans Solo himself, preferring to surround himself with familiar faces… and a Wilson brother or two. You can’t fail to be seduced by dead centre framing, wide screen wonder and lustrous use of colour, but many are, Anderson able to split an audience with his deadpan scripts, super-clever kids and array of pomp. Also never far away from criticism, many people question style over substance, his sheer range of influences (Francois Truffaut, Mike Nichols and even Martin Scorsese) not persuasive enough.

But for the unconverted, Moonrise Kingdom does offer some fresh ideas, albeit in casting and little else. Bruce Willis is perhaps the most intriguing, back doing comedy after an on-going glut of awful action movies sure to climax with a Good Day to Die Hard. His timing and way with a one liner potentially ruined by The Whole Nine Yards (and The Whole Ten Yards) but Anderson’s thrown him a lifeline here. Ed Norton and Tilda Swinton add a touch of highbrow haughtiness too, as does Frances McDormand; all three having the subtlety and range to make Moonrise tick, and we still haven’t mentioned Harvey Keitel. Alright, there’s not a Wilson brother in sight but the latest addition to the Anderson annals is a friendly face that’s most heartily welcome.

By Ian Roebuck

Originally published in issue 36 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. March 2012.