Isle of Dogs

RATED - (PG-13) - 101-MIN-2018

                                  Isle of Dogs is a fun trip to take

There seems to be a great divide between fans of Wes Anderson’s movies and the people who "just don’t get him”. If you like his style of filmmaking, I am thrilled to tell you that (Isle of Dogs) is just wonderful with all of the usual eccentricities his films have. But even if Anderson isn't quite your cup of tea, I still think you may enjoy this enchanting fable after you see how much care and love was put into it. It has that stop-motion animation that harkens back to the old (Rankin/Bass) holiday films. It also happens to be just beautiful in each and every scene. Bravo to the animators, and another great score from (Alexandre Desplat) who won for (The Shape of Water).

The movie starts with a prologue of three warring clans in the fictional city of Megasaki Japan. Two of the clans love dogs and one favors cats (Kobayashi). When the leader of the Kobayashi clan is killed in battle (beheaded actually, by a little boy), a great divide is set between the two tribes and the cat-loving Koxbayshi clan. Like many of Anderon's movies, this is also split into sections with titles.

Flash forward to the future a bit...a deadly dog flu has broken out and the mayor of Megasaki, a cat-loving Kobayashi, decides for the safety of the city, to banish all dogs to Trash Island, which is connected to Megasaki only by a high tram car. This also means that the Mayor's nephew and ward Atari (Koyu Rankin), has to give up his faithful dog: Spots (Liev Schreiber). Atari has been cared for by his uncle Kobashi after his parents died in an accident that almost killed him. He and Spots share a deeper connection through a funky headset that leaves this sad boy truly alone.

On Trash Island, which is exactly that (an island full of cubes of trash), where packs of dogs fight and scrap for every piece of rotten food dumped there, Spots is dropped off in a cage. They don't even have the decency to unlock the door. This location alone is worth seeing, as the half-finished treatment plants, amusement park, and other locations where the dogs hang out, have all gone to pot, and are rusting out.

Atari's, miserable without his only friend Spots, so he sneaks onto a small plane and crashes on the island, determined to find his beloved pet. Atari's badly injured (with some kind of antenna stuck in his head) and is found by a group of nice dogs led by the fair and decent Rex (Edward Norton), Duke (a hilarious Jeff Goldblum), Boss ( Bill Murray) and King (Bob Balaban). Also in their group, but not too interested in helping the little boy is scruffy Chief (Byran Cranston, who is great). Chief seems more worried about getting his next meal. He doesn't like Atari. All of the actors who voice this group of canines have worked with Anderson before. They get how to deliver the lines in that sort of matter of fact, non-emotional cadence, so prevalent in Anderson's work. Their banter between each other is hilarious, and each actor brings their own beat to their dog characters. After another vote, the dogs agree to help Atari find his dog on the island.

Back in Megasaki, scientists are trying to find an antidote to the swine flu, but other forces seem to be hindering their efforts. A plucky and loud white exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig ), with quite the white afro, starts looking into this and suspects that the Mayor is involed with the suppression of the vaccine, especially after the apparent suicide of one of the scientist. I didn't really get why the Gerwig character is American. Why not make her a Japanese citizen? In the context of the movie, it didn't bother me as much as it did others considering some of the reviews of the film. But it did make me go...hmmm?

This is a story about a boy and his dog, and the journey each takes, but set in Wes Anderson's world. We meet many funny characters on the island and back in Japan. There are so many little details and moments in this movie, that I can't wait to see it again. The way the dogs stare into the camera and then blankly back at each other, the absolutely wonderful overhead sequence of sushi being prepared, and the operation where one character donates a kidney to another, are just a few standout moments in this silly and quirky Anderson gem about man's best friend. There is more creativity, humor, and beautiful images, in ten minutes of this film, than in most movies altogether.
That's not too shabby.

You should see this movie.

Watch the trailer: