MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Isle of Dogs” is voiced by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad [TV series], Trumbo), Koyu Rankin (Juken [Short]), Edward Norton (Fight Club, Birdman: Or [The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance]), Bob Balaban (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Gosford Park), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Groundhog Day), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Thor: Ragnarok), Kunichi Normura (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Lost in Translation), Akira Takayama (No Reservations, Old Dogs), Greta Gerwig (Francis Ha, Mistress America), Francis McDormand (Fargo , Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri), Akira Ito (The Detour [TV series], Packing Fudge [Short]), Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers , Her), Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, Bad Lieutenant), F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus, Last Action Hero), Yoko Ono (The Misfits- 30 Years of Fluxus, Freedom [Short]), Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange, Snowpiercer), and Liev Schreiber (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Spotlight). It was directed by Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Moonrise Kingdom), while he co-wrote the story with Jason Schwartzman (Mozart in the Jungle [TV series], The Darjeeling Limited), Roman Coppola (The Darjeeling Limited, Mozart in the Jungle [TV series]), and Kunichi Nomura. Set in the city of Megasaki, Japan, a massive epidemic of dog flu has spread to several citizens, affecting many and causing a huge panic. To resolve this matter, Mayor Kobayashi (Nomura) orders all canines to be banished to Trash Island to live out the rest of their days. Years after this is put into effect, a young boy named Atari (Rankin) flies to Trash Island to search for his lost dog Spots (Schreiber), and enlists the help of a pack of dogs to join his search.
Beautiful…just, beautiful. You don’t realize how great it is to watch a movie that is a stand-alone, highly original, and an all-around blast until you witness “Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson’s second foray in the stop-motion department. It was my most anticipated film of the year, even topping “Infinity War.” Expectations were dangerously high, as once it was announced last year that Anderson had been working on the feature, I was ecstatic. He’s one of the most innovative filmmakers of modern cinema, taking time from film to film in order to craft something of substance, value, and wittiness (by far his top priority it seems). As you all may or may not know, he’s one of my favorite directors, if not THE favorite, and I await every movie of his with pure excitement. Even for those of you who do not care for his work, you have to admit that all of his pieces are original. With a film market filled to the brim with sequels, spin-offs, and superhero flicks, there has to be a relief; fortunately for us, Wes Anderson provides it (so do others, but we’re talking about his movie in particular). Right off the bat, “Isle of Dogs” amazes with a stellar intro that utilizes patterns and wonderful text (using Japanese lettering followed by English subtitles). It flows right into the style Anderson is going for, with almost all of the characters speaking Japanese, only to be translated by a newswoman, foreign exchange student, and an electronic device. Obviously, the dogs speak English, but a quick note at the beginning of the flick stated that “all barks have been rendered into English.” It’s wickedly fascinating to watch, not only for its use of language but also the world that is created. The animation is brilliant; it’s colors bounce off the screen and each scene is chocked full of meticulous detail that several viewings will still lead to something new to uncover. The characters are interestingly modeled, with the humans embodying their personalities while the dogs are just fun and unique. Voice acting wise, everyone was astounding. You can’t beat the talent that Anderson pulled together, ranging from Bryan Cranston to Yoko Ono. Each provided a witty spin to their characters, per usual with an Anderson flick, making for compelling scenes. There was hardly ever a dull moment, and when there was one I at least had a lot to study in terms of design. Stop-motion is an art that, while painstaking, provides one of the most intriguing viewings of cinema. Anderson knows this, and thankfully continues to make features with the style (I hope he will give it another shot someday). I had a blast watching this guys; it’s my first time watching one of his works in the theater, and I was grinning ear to ear often. The score is a huge contributor, as Alexandre Desplat amazes once more; it’s a brilliant score to listen to, and I highly recommend giving it a try (whether you watch the film or not). There’s so much to be taken in by this feature; I haven’t seen all of Anderson’s work, but I can tell that this focused on its theme more than anything. Whether or not you grasp what he’s getting at, Anderson crafts something deep. It’s a tale of friendship, humanity’s evil acts, and how one should not let their past define who they are. Honestly, there was one moment where I felt my eyes begin to water; “Isle of Dogs” is genuine, and a pure delight to watch unfold. However, I will say that it isn’t Anderson’s best, and for a clear reason: shaky character development. While his theme is deep and hearty, the filmmaker tries to juggle several characters at once, hardly relying on one of them to pull the show. Granted, there are key players, primarily Chief (Cranston) and Atari. The development amongst them is relatively solid, but I think it could’ve been furthered. There’s a lot going on in this feature with several character arcs to focus on. Because there are so many players, it makes it difficult to flesh out any of them entirely without having the theme just take precedence instead. Besides this fact, the film is amazing. I would see it again if I had the chance for further analysis; I just wish that the characters had more of a drawl to really pull me in. Overall, I highly recommend “Isle of Dogs.” If you haven’t seen it, please go right now. Anderson, you’ve done it again; thank you for keeping cinema alive. FINAL SCORE: 94%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: