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Surviving Exile on the “Isle of Dogs”




Review by John Delia, Sr.

Offbeat, heavy-handed characters, bleak outcast situations, and moody, it’s a marvelous adventure for those who like Wes Anderson movies. This one however shows his range with an animated film that’s worthy of most Japanese greats. From the opening drum introduction of Isle of Dogs to the heartfelt finale, Anderson captures a cold disturbing environment from which his characters can rise up. If you like offbeat stories produced in stop motion animation in the vein of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie then this film should not be missed.

(From L-R): Edward Norton as “Rex,” Jeff Goldblum as “Duke,” Bill Murray as “Boss,” Bob Balaban as “King” and Bryan Cranston as “Chief” in the film ISLE OF DOGS. Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Its twenty years in the future and the Japanese are trying to deal with the over population of dogs. To make matters worse there’s an outbreak of Dog Flu in the city of Magazaki. Mayor Kobayashi calls for a quarantine and has all dogs sent to Trash Island, a waste dump far from the mainland that serves the big city. There the canines set up residence on what is now called the Isle of Dogs.

Chief has come forward to put up a stand on the island and tells his team of Rex, King, Duke and Boss that they are to lead the others as top Alpha dogs. It has been many years since the first dog was dumped on the vast trash filled island and Chief wants to make sure they survive. In the meantime, 12-year-old boy Atari has commandeered a small plane so he can fly to the Isle to find his dog Spots who was taken away from him when he was a small child. When he crashes at the trash dump he finds the dog leaders. Together they take on the quest to find Spots.

Bryan Cranston as “Chief” in the film ISLE OF DOGS.

If you are familiar with Wes Anderson then you know he’s a writer who searches for social changes and them presents them with a dark comic tone. He’s most noted for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums of which all three were nominated for an Oscar. But, in 2010 he came out with an animated film called The Fantastic Mr. Fox and it was also nominated for an Oscar. So why not try again? Enter Isle of Dogs the quick witted film with a social story about people, no I mean dogs.

It’s this film that hits a new chord pitting society against an overpopulation of dogs and then casting them off onto a garbage filled island. Trying to exist they ban together for a common cause, food and shelter. It tells volumes about the problems in Africa and the Middle East where survival of the strongest are trying to prevail.

Koyu Rankin as Atari in Isle of Dogs

The stop motion animation is much better than his The Fantastic Mr. Fox, but still not as good as Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Bride’s animation was more fluid and the characters were more mobile. Here, the characters are stiff and move along straight legged at times. That said, Anderson’s backgrounds are more colorful and brighter. I like what he did with the opening sequence and the drummers. They set the tone for the movie as they beat down on their drums as the story moves slowly into the introduction of the film. Throughout the film the drums are used to create suspense and then urgency.

Isle of Dogs has been rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent images. Be cautious when deciding to allow immature children see the film as it does have some scenes that are inappropriate for youngsters.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good film with some lite comedy mixed with emotion. (4 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information
Voice Cast: F. Murray Abraham, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig, Jeff Goldblum, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Mari Natsuki, Yojiro Noda, Kunichi Nomura, Edward Norton, Yoko Ono, Koyu Rankin, Liev Schreiber, Fisher Stevens, Tilda Swinton, Akira Takayama, Courtney B. Vance, Frank Wood
Directed and written by: Wes Anderson
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent images
Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.
Release Date: April 13, 2018
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

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