Review: Isle of Dogs – Another quirky, funny Wes Anderson classic

isle of dogs

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Movie review

Directed, written and produced by Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom), Isle of Dogs is a stop-motion animated film set in a dystopian near-future of Japan where a dog-flu is spreading in the fictional city of Megasaki. This mega sucky situation allows the city’s mayor, Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), to quarantine and exile all dogs to a literal Trash Island. Kobayashi’s young adopted nephew, Atari (Koyu Rankin), secretly flies to the island to find his dog, Spot, which was the first dog that was banished to the island. A pack of hungry and sick, alpha-wannabe dogs decide to go on a journey with the boy to help search for his best friend.

As a dog lover and a huge fan of Japanese culture, it might seem a little bias to say that this is probably my favourite Wes Anderson film. But if you did enjoy most of the unique director’s films, it’s highly unlikely you would dislike this one. Isle of Dogs is an adorably entertaining film that displays utmost affection towards canines that are known to be naturally friendly and loyal to humans. It’s perhaps “normal” by now to compliment an Anderson film for being quirky, funny, fast-paced and visually meticulous — and he does it again for Isle of Dogs.

isle of dogs still

The narratives provide quite a refreshing experience as well. The film is mostly in the point of view of the dog characters who converse in English while the Japanese human characters speak in their own native language. Dogs and humans do not understand each others’ language without the Up-like translator device. The main dog characters are voiced by a star-studded cast — Bryan Cranston (as Chief), Edward Norton (Rex), Bill Murray (Boss), Jeff Goldblum (Duke) and Bob Balaban (King) — all of whom did brilliantly providing each dog with its own charming personality and special traits. There are also a number of big names who voice cameo roles, most surprisingly Yoko Ono (late John Lennon’s widow) as the scientist’s assistant.

The delivery of the lines from the script may feel like total deadpan humour but there are subtle satires and moments where I felt genuinely moved. I disagree with the early criticisms that the film is racist and promotes white saviour complex. The design of every frame in the film’s depiction of Japan is a joy to watch. As for the brave and heroic American exchange student character Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), it’s just Anderson’s way of playing around with the trope.

What I would’ve named the film: “Dogs’ Purpose”

Malaysian censorship: Despite some “graphic” animal violence, I doubt any scene would be required to be cut.

Verdict: Definitely Oscar-worthy. I’d be quite upset if it’s not at least nominated for the Best Animated Feature.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

isle of dogs movie poster malaysiaGenre: Comedy, adventure, animation
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director-writer: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Live Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Kunichi Nomura, Courtney B. Vance, Frances McDormand

Malaysia Release Date: 31 May 2018
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: 20th Century Fox Malaysia
Production: Indian Paintbrush, American Empirical Pictures

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