Wes Anderson’s “Cousin Ben Troop Screening” (2012)

The year 2012 marked director Wes Anderson’s grand return to live-action filmmaking in the form of MOONRISE KINGDOM.  As part of the film’s promotion, Anderson enlisted the services of his frequent collaborator Jason Schwartzman for a Funny or Die sketch called COUSIN BEN TROOP SCREENING.  A short piece similar in style and function to his MAX FISCHER PLAYERS PRESENTS THE MTV MOVIE AWARDS series of promo sketches from 1998, COUSIN BEN TROOP SCREENING finds Schwartzman reprising his role of Cousin Ben, a fast-talking hustler of a scout leader.  The piece also features some of MOONRISE KINGDOM’s khaki scouts playing their characters once again as they shuffle into a makeshift tent to take in a screening of the film.

Befitting its status as a short comedy video for Funny or Die, COUSIN BEN TROOP SCREENING appears to have been shot digitally— but that’s just about the only deviation from Anderson’s signature aesthetic.  Indeed, Anderson indulges in his own stylistic affectations to a degree bordering on parody.  His flat sense of depth is flatter, his symmetrical compositions are even more precisely calibrated, and the implied presence of an external proscenium bottles the action up inside a meticulously-staged diorama.  It’s interesting to see the whimsical, lushly-realized universe of MOONRISE KINGDOM in the guise of a low-budget internet short, as the crisp sheen of digital seems to diminish some of the charm of Anderson’s idiosyncratic designs.  While COUSIN BEN TROOP SCREENING doesn’t offer much in the way of growth for Anderson, it serves as an inspired and unconventional form of promotion for its larger parent project.