Wes Anderson’s newest film, Isle of Dogs, hits theaters this weekend (March 23rd) and it’s filled with the quirky charm and wit we’ve come to know and love in his work.
Taking place in a futuristic Japan in the fictional Megasaki City, all dogs have been transported to the garbage ridden Trash Island as the city’s corrupt Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) believes the dogs are spreading disease. Despite the fact that his political rival, a scientist, has come up with a serum to heal the dogs, Kobayashi believes the only way to ‘save’ the city (more like ensure his reelection) is to banish all dogs. His adventurous nephew Atari (Koyu Rankin) decides to fly out to Trash Island in search of his exiled “guard dog” Spot (Liev Schriber). Once he crash lands, he encounters a group of peculiar canines who offer to help him on his quest.
There’s Rex (Edward Norton), who loves to present himself as the leader of the group, King (Bob Balaban) who misses his old life as a ‘dog model’, Boss (Bill Murray) who still sports his old baseball uniform from his mascot days, and Duke (Jeff Goldblum) who is always ready to gossip and start rumours with his pack.
Also joining the gang is grouchy stray Chief (Bryan Cranston) who thinks the groups quest is pointless, as he believes that dogs do not belong under servitude to owners.
The movie has all the elements of a typical Wes Anderson movie, from the wacky humor to the use of narration (the story is wonderfully narrated by Courtney B. Vance) and has the stop motion animation that was used in his 2009 film, Fantastic Mr. Fox. The film also features a star studded cast of both Anderson regulars (Murray, Norton) and recent Oscar faves (Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig).
One aspect to look out for, if you plan to see the movie, is the lack of subtitles used for the human characters. The residents of Megasaki City all speak in Japanese with no subtitles shown. However it is easy to convey meaning through body language and their expressions plus with how the dog characters interact with them. I believe this was done for stylistic purposes, perhaps because Anderson did not want viewers constantly reading subtitles on screen and instead focusing on the visuals.
The film overall is a delightful ride, filled with enjoyable characters and a heartwarming story that both young and old can relate to, because after all, who hasn’t had a pet who is also their best friend? I’m sure everyone would agree that they would go to the ends of the earth for their animal friend.
Fox Searchlight Pictures releases Isle of Dogs on Friday, March 23, 2018
[Review by Jennifer King]