Jungle
Isle of Dogs

I will admit that I am not a huge Wes Anderson fan as I find his style of filmmaking to be very hit or miss. Sometimes it works like in The Grand Budapest Hotel and other times it just doesn’t connect at all like in The Darjeeling Limited. For better or worse, Isle of Dogs is typical Wes Anderson. That means fans of his will no doubt love it. For others like myself who are on the fence about Anderson, it doesn’t quite scratch that itch you may be hoping for.

 

The fictional Japanese city of Megasaki City has been plagued by a rampant dog flu virus so in order to contain the disease, the authoritarian and cat-loving mayor banishes all dogs to Trash Island despite a possible cure being within reach. Six months go by and nearly everyone has forgotten about the dogs on Trash Island except for the young Atari, who runs away to the island to find his dog Spots. After crash landing a plane on the island, Atari encounters a pack of dogs led by the reluctant Chief, who agree to help reunite him with Spots. Meanwhile, back on the mainland the mayor is doing all he can catch Atari and the dogs helping him as they come closer and closer to finding out the truth of Trash Island and the corruption surrounding it.

 

For a film revolving around a boy’s search for his lost dog, I surprisingly cared little about the majority of the characters, human or animal, with the exception of Chief. Everyone else fades into the background after the initial, “Hey, I recognize that voice as Edward Norton, Bill Murray or Jeff Goldblum,” shock wears off. The cast is amazing and features a who’s who of Wes Anderson’s go-to actors, but because there are so many of them the film never feels like it devotes enough time to develop any one character. There are a handful of heartfelt moments like the relationship Atari builds with Chief or when he finally reunites with Spots. They’re few and far between, though, and aren’t enough to save the film’s story.

 

Isle of Dogs also attempts to be edgy by having a lot of the human dialogue be in Japanese and not providing subtitles, instead forcing the audience to rely on context clues or have a reason in the story for someone to repeat the dialogue in English to understand. Doing so doesn’t add anything to the film or make it better; it’s just an annoyance and actually dumbs down the film because it has to repeat itself so many times.

 

Despite not loving the story, I was captivated by the animation. Isle of Dogs is the second stop-motion animated film from Wes Anderson after Fantastic Mr. Fox, and it looks absolutely breathtaking. The set designs are so detailed and the cinematography is so precise and free-flowing that it’s easy to get lost in the visuals. There were moments where I completely forgot it was stop-motion, and that is when Isle of Dogs excels the most.

 

Isle of Dogs isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re not a Wes Anderson fan, but I can respect the craft that went into making the film. It’s a beautiful film to watch, which makes it a shame the story is so lackluster and forgettable.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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