‘Isle of Dogs’, quirky film about man’s best friend


Bryan Cranston and Koyu Rankin in Isle of Dogs (2018)

Brian Lang, Film Critic

Bryan Cranston and Koyu Rankin in Isle of Dogs (2018)

Traditionally, dog movies are a great draw to the theaters. From classics like “Old Yeller” and “Homeward Bound” to newer movies like “Secret Life of Pets” and “A Dog’s Purpose,” dog movies are successful.

Wes Anderson’s new animated film “Isle of Dogs” takes a different path than most dog movies, but still stays on message about the loyalty between man and his best friend.

“Isle of Dogs” is set in a dystopian Japanese city where all dogs have been banned. The disease-ridden canines have been sent to nearby “Trash Island” to seek out a living and hope for survival. When the ward of the mayor goes to the island to rescue his dog Spots, he’s accompanied by a pack of five loyal dogs. Their journey grows as they uncover a government conspiracy and must work together to make things right.

The highlight, and maybe the most obvious aspect, of “Isle of Dogs” is its stunning stop-motion animation. Each frame can easily stand on its own as a work of art. The colors, balancing, and perspective creates striking scenes that immediately grab the audience’s attention.

This animation, coupled with the A-list cast Anderson pulled together, create a very artistic film. The dialogue is filled with Anderson’s typical dry humor, and the storyline is imaginative.

Although this film lovingly portrays Japanese culture, some critics have deemed it insensitive. And while a case can be made about its insensitivity, there is no substantial evidence. Instead, “Isle of Dogs” comes across as a passion piece from a quirky director. It’s very evident that Anderson loves Japanese culture through his careful depiction of it in his signature style. It’s refreshing to see an American movie set in a foreign culture.

The main thing this film lacks is real heart. The animation is beautiful, the cast is stacked with the best talent in the business, but at the end of the day, the story is simply not compelling. For one thing, it runs on for far too long. The gorgeous animation and smart dialogue can become tiring and the story became boring. Its smug sense of humor grew a little annoying, as Anderson constantly touted his intellectualism.

I also felt that Anderson could have done more with his female characters. He secured phenomenal actresses like Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johansson, but barely uses them. If he went through the trouble to cast these actresses, he should balance the story to give them something to do.

Still, besides these complaints, “Isle of Dogs” is a must-see for those looking for something out of the ordinary. There hasn’t been a recent movie quite like it, and that alone is exciting. The acting is excellent, the animation is amazing and of course, it’s from cinematic genius Wes Anderson. So if you’re looking for something different this weekend, “Isle of Dogs” is certainly a good choice.

Rating: 8/10
Still showing in local theaters