REVIEW: Isle of Dogs

Review by Dustin Heller

Isle of Dogs is the new stop-motion animated film from writer and auteur director Wes Anderson.  If you don’t know Anderson by name, you’d definitely recognize his stylized brand of filmmaking with classics such as Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom and the amazing stop-motion animated Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Another Anderson trademark is his ability to put together remarkable ensemble casts.  Isle of Dogs is no exception with the likes of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton.  Pretty impressive, right?  The film is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and violent images.

Dog flu has spread throughout Japan and the mayor of Megasaki City has signed a decree that will banish all dogs to Trash Island.  This doesn’t stop the mayor’s orphaned nephew, Atari, from trying to find his dog, Spots, who was the first dog to be banished.  Atari crash-lands a plane on Trash Island where he is rescued by five dogs who agree to help him find Spots.

As Atari and the dogs carry out their mission, a cure for the dog flu is created back on the mainland.  It is now up to Atari to rescue Spots and return to Japan for a head-to-head showdown against his uncle.  The fate of all dogkind hangs in the balance.

Isle of Dogs is a perfect example of Wes Anderson doing Wes Anderson-y things.  The film is incredibly quirky and strange, but clever and smart at the same time.  I loved it!  The story is really out there and the humor is very dry, only adding to the entertainment value.  The animation is beautiful, and it’s done in an interesting way that makes it nearly impossible for you to take your eyes off the screen. As a side note, this isn’t a kids movie and shouldn’t be treated as such.

I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of Anderson, but not so much so that my judgement is clouded. For example, I think The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was a terribly boring film!  I say this because a lot of times people like something just because they think they’re supposed to.  That is not the case with Isle of Dogs, I would have enjoyed it no matter whose name was attached as director.

As much as I loved it, that doesn’t mean that the masses will.  Arthouse folks and the Anderson faithful will eat this up, but casual movie fans may just leave the theater unsatisfied.  Isle of Dogs is perfect counter-programming to all of the big budget action films in theaters now.

Grade: A

Isle of Dogs opens in Indianapolis on Wednesday, March 28