Last weekend, The Belcourt showed Wes Anderson's first feature, the 1996 caper comedy Bottle Rocket. It's the movie that introduced one of the great comic archetypes: Owen Wilson's Dignan, a fidgety idea man who pours his inspiration into low-yield robberies that he micro-manages as if he were tunneling into Fort Knox. But it also introduced the worldview Anderson would refine and elaborate over his next six films — the folly of thinking you can control your life if you just map it out obsessively enough.
The heroes of Anderson's subsequent movies — Rushmore's adolescent go-getter Max Fischer, The Life Aquatic's scuffling Cousteau stand-in Steve Zissou, the fantastic Mr. Fox — are whizzes at elaborate planning. Over the years, Anderson has developed a visual style to match their fussiness: tidily composed frames that look like shoebox dioramas, every detail fitted into place with a New Yorker cartoonist's eye for sight-gag arrangement. The compulsive order becomes the joke: There's no way anything so maniacally organized can hold, like an Eiffel Tower of toothpicks awaiting just one big sneeze. If a spirit animal haunts this realm, it's not suave Mr. Fox but hapless Wile E. Coyote.
And if knocking down these characters' matchstick houses were all Anderson cared about doing, his movies would be exercises in twee sadism. But the elements that disrupt his heroes' best-laid plans — other people, the stray bottle rockets whose path nobody can predict — tend to produce something better by demanding to be acknowledged. And so it is with Anderson's seventh movie, Moonrise Kingdom — which in some ways is exactly what you expect if you've been following his career, and yet still the loveliest surprise you're likely to get at the movies this summer.