Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Ken Watanabe, Liev Schreiber, Edward Norton, Fisher Stevens, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Courtney B. Vance, Kunichi Nomura and Yoko Ono
Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent images
Running Time: 94 mins
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
4 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
Wes Anderson likes to create for us, to a large degree, a world that’s somewhat contradictory to the one we’re currently living. What is often the most appealing thing about his films is experiencing them. He designs quirky, whimsical and hallucinatory environments for his characters to live in and Isle of Dogs (say that title quickly and you’re telling anyone within earshot your favorite animal), is no different, luckily for us. Isle is Anderson’s second go at stop-motion animation, his first being 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, and if the first didn’t prove he can do anything he puts his mind to, this second try will. It’s Certified Fresh, receiving a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, so if you go by that meter, see the film, but also see it if you like good, creative and unique storytelling.
This is a delightful walk through chunks of the Japanese culture in a futuristic Tokyo type metropolis. It has a big cast of amazing actors who lend their voices to the film’s dogs who are being sent to live on an island, away from the human population. They’re being hauled away under the pretense that it’s for health reasons. The mayor, named Kobayashi (Nomura), banishes the dogs without feeling because his pets of choice are cats. Be sure to keep your eyes glued to the screen because there’s so much going on in each scene that you don’t want to miss one moment of Anderson’s genius or lose one single plot point. This could happen if you look away because of the fact that when a human speaks, it’s in Japanese with subtitles. It’s only when the dogs bark that we hear the English language.
The poor dogs, and you will feel for them, live on Trash Island, where human waste is dumped, and food is scarce, turning all household pets into miserable mutts scraping by for scraps not taken by the more vicious of the lot. It’s here where we get to know Chief (Cranston), who helps the Mayor’s twelve-year-old nephew, Atari (Koyu Rankin), find his long-lost pet, Spots (Schreiber) who was the first one sent to Trash Island years ago. The dog was the boy’s protector and he plans to rescue him from his banishment.
Isle of Dogs is about a little boy trying to find his beloved pet, but I wouldn’t say this is for young children. Structured with the same tone Anderson uses for most of his films, it’s heavy and dark so do accept that the PG-13 rating is there to guide you in that choice. It’s a bit slow in the beginning but about a quarter of the way in, it doesn’t stop. You’ll pick up on the political message of youth speaking up and making a difference in their world, and if you’re a big fan of Wes Anderson, you won’t be disappointed in the way he kept the rhythm of storytelling the same as previous films you’ve enjoyed. This is a see more than once film. One word of suggestion before you go, however, learn who each member of the cast is playing before heading out or you’ll be driven crazy trying to recall who it is you’re hearing the entire 94 minutes. I’ll help you by letting you know that the narrator is Courtney B. Vance.
*Isle of Dogs opens Wednesday, March 28th at Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square