Get it? I-sleof-Dogs!
Synopsis: ISLE OF DOGS tells the story of ATARI KOBAYASHI, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage dump, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior Turbo Prop and flies to Trash Island in search of his bodyguard dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture. (Fox Searchlight)
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, and Bill Murray
Writer: Wes Anderson
Director: Wes Anderson
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 101mins
For showtimes and more, check out Isle of Dogs on movietimes.com.
Writer/Director Wes Anderson has been known for his whimsical films and this one is no different, live-action or animated. In his second stop-motion animated film, the corrupt, dog-hating mayor of the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki City, Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), ordered the exile of all stray and domesticated dogs to a nearby trash island. The story was pretty much revealed in the trailers, focusing on a group of dogs named Chief (Cranston), Rex (Norton), Boss (Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and King (Bob Balaban).
The five dogs quickly encounter Kobayashi’s ward, a young boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin), crashing his plane on the island while looking for his lost dog Spots (Liev Schreiber). Atari and the dogs’ journey was fun to watch as they had to navigate the landscape, the language barrier between them, and a few other memorable dogs along the way (further showing off the film’s impressive cast). Some were not as willing to help but that obviously changed over time as they learned to trust humans again. Of course there’s a message in all of this and it will surely resonate with most viewers.
Standing in the way of Atari and the dogs was Mayor Kobayashi and his attempt to maintain control of Megasaki City and to eradicate the canine population (a backstory at the beginning of the film explained this). The story would also feature political thriller esque elements to break up the main storyline. These focused on the remaining pro-dog residents of Megasaki City, including a foreign exchange student named Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) who fought to stop Kobayashi and ensure the safe return of all dogs to the city.
In the film, canine characters spoke English while most human characters spoke Japanese. However, translations were offered at times using a narrator (Courtney B. Vance) and some English speaking characters. There were a few moments where translation would have helped but for the most part, we could always get the gist of what was going on.
The amount of sheer detail and dedication on display was impressive to watch (and you can watch plenty of behind the scenes videos of it online). From the environments and the character design, there was definitely a lot to see in each frame. This made it much easier to become engaged in the story on a deeper level and to care which isn’t always easy to do. The score was excellent at setting the mood and accentuating everything else going on. The best part of the film was the voice acting by everyone. The film boasts a great cast who all brought it here. The two that perhaps stood out the most were Cranston and Gerwig as their characters, Chief and Tracy had the biggest arcs in the film.
Overall, this was an excellent stop-motion animated film made better by its original story that will surely resonate with most viewers, an immersive world, and memorable characters brought to life by strong writing and performances by its impressive cast.