Isle of Dogs (PG)

In a Word: Charming

Isle of Dogs

 L to R - Bill Murray as “Boss,” Koyu Rankin as “Atari Kobayashi,” Edward Norton as “Rex,” Bob Balaban as “King” and Jeff Goldblum as “Duke” in Isle of Dogs.

 

"Like Anderson’s previous animated feature Fantastic Mister Fox, Isle of Dogs has the look of a storybook brought to life. Like a fable, the animals are the ones that speak and the humans are mostly incomprehensible. And like all good fables there is an underlying message - that the power and greed that is destroying our world can be overcome by the courageous and persistent action of our youth."

Isle of Dogs - the latest animated feature from writer/director Wes Anderson (he of Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mister Fox, Moonrise Kingdom fame) - is set in dystopian future in which Japan is ruled over by a cat loving mayor and in which all dogs are banished to Trash Island.

Atari Kobayashi (voiced by Koyu Rankin) is a 12-year-old boy who embarks on a dangerous quest to find and free his lost dog Spots (Liev Schreiber) and along the way he joins a pack of scavenging dogs that includes Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum).

The star-studded voice cast also features Scarlett Johansson as seductive show dog Nutmeg and Greta Gerwig as Tracy - a feisty young reporter - as well as the likes of Frances Mcdormand, Harvey Keitel, F Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, and Yoko Ono. It's an impressive lineup of talent which is a testament to Anderson’s high regard in the Hollywood community and his production of films which come with both critical acclaim and long-lasting appeal.

This charming adventure is a prime example of how the manner in which a story is told can elevate, intrigue and entertain. Presented in sections (with a prologue and epilogue to bookend the tale), each chapter comes loaded with humour, satire and adventure as well as some unexpected moments that will equally surprise and delight. Anderson creates a world where the children are heroic, adults are flawed and it's the animals that are the most compassionate and responsible. It's the younger generation that can save the future if they have the ingenuity and courage to do so, an empowering message that never comes off as patronising.

Isle of Dogs employs stop-motion animation featuring intricately made puppets to magical effect. Unlike the flood of computer-generated animations that have appeared on screens in recent decades, this method of film-making comes with a hand-made artistry which carries with it a strong sense of the the love, care and patience that goes into every frame. Each of the characters evokes a strong sense of personality through a combination of design, animation and wonderful voice performances while the writing plays no small part in making this all work with a charm that will appeal both to young and old, thanks at least partly to genuine twists which only remind the viewer that we are in the hands of a seasoned storyteller.

Anderson’s work brings with it a sense of childlike wonder coupled with fierce intelligence and insight into the human condition. He masterfully weaves tales that are quirky but not too weird, constantly surprising but not too shocking, and genuinely funny without being silly. Like Anderson’s previous animated feature Fantastic Mister Fox, Isle of Dogs has the look of a storybook brought to life. Like a fable, the animals are the ones that speak and the humans are mostly incomprehensible. And like all good fables there is an underlying message - that the power and greed that is destroying our world can be overcome by the courageous and persistent action of our youth.

Culturally, the dog has become synonymous with loyalty and faithfulness so it comes as no surprise that this is a major theme in which is effectively a love letter to that connection. Isle of Dogs celebrates the bravery, resourcefulness and faithfulness of man’s best friend - timeless qualities that we should all aspire towards.