When every dog in a Japanese city is exiled to an island of trash,
one boy braves the perils of the island to find and rescue his dog.
Isle of Dogs (2018)
Written and Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton,
Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel,
F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Courtney B. Vance
Oscar Nominations - Best Animated Film,
Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat)
Isle of Dogs is probably Wes Anderson's weirdest movie. In the future, a Japanese city's mayor (who comes from a long line of dog haters) outlaws dogs and has them all banished to a trash island. There, the dogs form a society of their own in little packs, and we follow one of these packs led by the enigmatic former stray Chief (Cranston). Anderson, as he did with Fantastic Mr. Fox, outdoes himself with his impeccable production design, quirky brand of humor, and strange concept that didn't draw me in immediately, but eventually hooked me.
A young boy named Atari (Rankin) goes to the island to find his dog Spots (Schreiber). Chief and his gang of oddballs agree to help Atari find Spots because all dogs love human boys and they all miss having masters. The adventure is wild, fraught with peril, and being closely monitored by the evil mayor of Megasaki. Along the way, Atari learns that Chief may in fact be Spots's brother, and the two start to bond. I did feel Isle of Dogs, at times, was unnecessarily complicated in its backstory and rebellion subplot. Also, the marketing made it seem like a kids movie, which it mostly isn't. But it does become engaging after some time, and the final act is a rollercoaster.
I'm surprised Anderson didn't come under more fire for his less than sensitive depiction of Japanese culture, particularly his naming every character and location after some Americanized Japanese word like "Honda," or "Kobayashi." Just sayin.' While not one of his greatest works, this film is still a visual feast with compelling characters and a brilliant score.