“Isle of Dogs” was written and directed by Wes Anderson and stars Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig and a whole laundry list of other stars. The film is about a dystopian Japan that shipped all of its dogs onto an island full of trash, and one kid named Atari Kobayashi (Rankin) who travels to the island in search of his dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber).
Anderson is one of the most consistently strong directors working today, while also being one of the most unorthodox, so I am always excited to see his new projects. Specifically, with “Isle of Dogs,” he was going back to the stop motion that worked so well with “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” I was very excited to see this film, which includes and absolutely loaded cast, especially after seeing the trailer.
Though it might be way different than anything done by Pixar or Disney Animation, “Isle of Dogs” is one of the most visually stunning animated movies in recent memory. Every single frame in this movie feels like a work of art, whether it be the fantastic work done on the dogs and humans, the beautiful pieces of scenery or incredible use of practical effects to make the stop motion work.
Anderson has made his directorial style a genre of his own with an extreme use of dry humor, symmetry and familiar actors, and “Isle of Dogs” is the epitome of Anderson’s style. The symmetry is there in every shot, the dry humor is consistently hysterical and very well-executed. Norton and Bill Murray, consistent favorites of Anderson, both shine in their supporting roles.
Cranston is the lead for the majority of the film, and he is terrific as Chief. His relationship with Atari is terrific, and Cranston does a great job with voicing a certain amount of anger and emotion throughout pivotal scenes in the movie.
The supporting cast of dogs were primarily utilized for their comedic abilities, and they all did a tremendous job. Norton did a fantastic job as Rex, but I loved Jeff Goldblum as Duke. Goldblum is the funniest of the group, especially with each successive rumor that he offers.
The movie smartly uses translations. Numerous times, characters speak in Japanese without any sort of subtitle. The only English translations the audience gets are through translators or the occasional subtitle, and that simply added more flair and creativity to each scene. I only received translations for what was important, and it made characters, especially Rankin’s Atari, emotionally impactful even without knowing a single word of what he said.
Deep down, there was just something I loved about Anderson’s vision of a simple idea: A boy searching for a dog he loved. The themes and the world become much grander than this, and in all the right ways, but the fact that this movie’s deepest theme is something so simple that every audience member can appreciate made the emotional potency work on a much larger scale.
There were a few scenes here and there that felt a bit unnecessary, or never fully connected back to the main storyline that I wish were cut or more strongly developed, especially in the human storylines.
Even though it was in typical Anderson style, I thought that the final 10 minutes of the movie were a little cheesy, even for someone who is such a huge fan of Anderson’s work. Without spoiling, I just felt that the end was too wrapped up in a nice little bow for its own good, and I wish that the film ended on a more open-ended, or less sugary-sweet note.
“Isle of Dogs” is yet another terrific film under Anderson’s belt,using stunning visuals, tremendous voice acting and brilliantly implemented comedy to stay consistently entertaining and heartfelt. There were only small complaints to be had. This was a phenomenal film from start to finish with so much to appreciate at every turn.
Though it may not be a film for everyone — Anderson’s style is incredibly quirky and his humor is an acquired taste — I highly recommend giving “Isle of Dogs” a try for it is one of the best films of 2018 so far.
4.5 out of 5 stars