Australian Council on Children and the Media

Moonrise Kingdom

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Not recommended under 13, PG to 15, due to violence, sexual references , disturbing scenes and themes, and substance use.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Moonrise Kingdom
  • a review of Moonrise Kingdom completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 4 September 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to violence, sexual references, disturbing scenes and themes, and substance use.
Children 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, sexual references, disturbing scenes and themes, and substance use.
Children over 15 OK for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Moonrise Kingdom
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence, sexual references and coarse language
Length 91 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The film 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 highly intelligent and a deep thinker, but is labelled as emotionally disturbed and has trouble making friends and fitting in. Suzy (Kara Hayward) is also 12-years-old and also has trouble fitting in. She gets into trouble at school for attacking classmates who don’t understand her, and 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, hiking along an old Harvest Migration trail and eventually setting up camp in a deserted cove they dub 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 are in a frenzy searching the island for Sam and Suzy. Eventually the young lovers are tracked down and Suzy is returned 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 assistance.     

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

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

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Moonrise Kingdom contains occasional low-level violence (mainly implied), some low level blood and gore and occasional intense peril. Examples include:

During a montage depicting some of Sam and Suzy’s “emotionally disturbed” behaviour we see: Suzy shouting at another girl during class, throwing a desk over and attacking the girl; Suzy shouting at her parents and younger brothers; Sam punching another boy in the crotch. A troop of young scouts search for Sam and Suzy carrying a variety of weapons including a club with long spike protruding from it, bows and arrows, machetes and knives while Sam himself carries an air rifle.

During a battle between a group of armed scouts and Sam and Suzy we hear lots of screaming and see the scout troop running 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. We see Sam and Suzy standing over a dead dog with an arrow sticking out from a bloody wound in the dog’s neck, apparently shot by one of the attacking scouts. Later Sam accuses the boy of killing the dog and then 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 and we see a small trickle of blood running down her neck.   

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Sam stands on top of a hill with a violent lighting storm raging around him. We see lightning arc down from the sky and strike Sam the force of the lightning strike lifting Sam out of his shoes (his shoes are in flames) and throwing him violently some distance backwards. When Sam stand up he appears uninjured 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. A series of 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.
  • We see the 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 and we hear a squelching sound as he does it. Later, the boy accused of killing the dog seems remorseless.
  • Sam and Suzy hold hands while standing at the top of a church steeple during a hurricane and pledge to jump together and risk dying in the fall 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 with Sam and Suzy dangling from the rope below him.  He pleads with Sam and Suzy not to let go. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

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

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

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

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

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

Product placement

Nothing of concern

Sexual references

Moonrise Kingdom contains some low-level sexual references and inference. Examples include:

  • Suzy’s mother has a clandestine meeting with Captain Sharp, telling him that they will have to stop seeing each other for the time being. Later we hear Suzy’s mother apologising 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 speculate as to whether Sam got to "second base" with Suzy with one boy asking "Over shirt or under shirt?"

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Suzy and Sam dance together wearing underwear. Suzy asks Sam if he knows how to “French Kiss” explaining that it’s when your tongues touch and we see the pair trying it.
  • Suzy tells Sam that he can touch her breasts and he puts his hands on Suzy’s breasts and squeezes them.
  • After Sam and Suzy (who are in their underwear) hug and passionately kiss each other Sam makes the comment “It feels hard do you mind?” to which Suzy replies “No I like it”. After Sam touches Suzy’s breasts she says “I think they are going to grow more”.  
  • Suzy sits in a bathtub with her knees pulled up against her chest; no nudity is depicted other than the tops of her bare shoulders. We see a water colour painting done by Sam with an image of what appears to be Suzy naked in a bathtub.  

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Main characters in the film constantly smoking cigarettes.
  • Sam smokes a pipe on several occasions.
  • On several occasions we see Scout Master Ward with a large glass containing brandy next to him.
  • Captain Sharp pours a small beer for Sam. 

Coarse language

There is some occasional low-level coarse language in this movie. Examples include:

Why the hell?; goddamn; holy Christ; lunatics; sons of bitches; mean jerks, bimbo; bastards; son of a bitch

In a nutshell

Moonrise Kingdom, rated PG, is a comedy romance that targets adolescents and adults and is not recommended for children under 13. The film, directed by Wes Anderson, has a slightly surreal feel about it and some quirky characters and may not appeal to younger teens, who may be disturbed by some scenes and themes. Parents of younger teens may be concerned about scenes of teenage sexuality and drinking and smoking by children.

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

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include the independence, determination and endurance demonstrated by Suzy and Sam as they make decisions, track through the countryside and reach their goal, regardless of the obstacles placed in their path.   

Parents may also wish to discuss the way in which the film romanticises the story of Sam and Suzy. Are Sam and Suzy’s actions acceptable and justified? Is their romance a normal part of growing up?

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