Wes Anderson’s (Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel) definitive canine masterpiece is a force to be reckon with. Isle of Dogs is 2018’s hidden gemstone, full of vivid direction, lively storytelling and a top-notch voice cast. Right now, it’s the best film to hit the theaters.
Director Wes Anderson’s newest stop-motion creation was fresh and cinematically engaging. Let’s get down to the basics, Anderson is his own genre and has crafted so many grand little indie films that they have radically transformed the film industry as we know it. Films like: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel and now Isle of Dogs. All of these films are incredibly unique, but still hold that Anderson pizzazz that makes them great. In Isle of Dogs, we get fully developed characters (human and animal), backed by a tremendous voice cast (Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Ito, Greta Gerwig, Akira Takayama, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Courtney B. Vance, Yoko Ono, Harvey Keitel, Ken Watanabe, Mari Natsuki and Tilda Swinton). Now, that’s what you call a full house.
On top of this, our fury canine’s narrative was nothing short of brilliant, along with the film's eye-popping visuals. Our story begins with an outbreak of canine flu in Japan and that leads all dogs to be quarantined on an island. A boy (voiced by a radiant Rankin) journeys there to rescue his dog Spots (voiced by a grand Schreiber) and gets help from a pack of misfit canines who have also been exiled. His quest inspires a group of dog lovers to expose a government conspiracy. Behind these band of misfit dogs include Chief (Cranston), Rex (Norton), Boss (Murray), Duke (Goldblum) and King (Balaban). Each actor embodies their own personality into the animal, giving us a better understanding of them. Cranston provides the gruff leadership, while Norton has more of the rather quirky personality. Murray and Goldblum both give us wit and humor, while Balaban infuses a more awry trait into his fury friend. Out of all of these character’s, Cranston’s Chief stands out the most. Notably, because his character is the most humane and vulnerable ("I'm not a violent dog, I don't know why I bite").
And let’s not forget about the stunning stop-motion. At times, I didn’t even feel like I was watching a stop-motion picture because it was so well crafted and full of life. Anderson has also melded a film full of homage and tribute to the Japanese culture and cinema. Cultural appropriation one screams! Maybe, one could argue? Many Twitter critics have jumped to this conclusion and not actually watched the movie. I would advise doing so, to better craft your opinion of Anderson’s work. However, one of my first reactions to the movie was that it was like a love letter to Japanese cinema. Many on Twitter have also used film-critic Justin Chang’s (Los Angeles Times) review as a “battle cry” for pushing their negative agenda against the film. However, Chang has stated that "I wasn't offended; nor was I looking to be offended.” Yet again, another example of people not fully reading someone else’s writing and only taking small critiqued sentences to push their negativity.
I advise fully reading Chang’s review because it is incredibly well-written. I also advise watching Isle of Dogs in its entirety because it really is a worthy movie to appreciate. Anderson's film has heart companied by deadpan humor and a message for every dog lover out there. All-in-all, Isle of Dogs is an incredible film and needs to be watched by the masses. Fingers crossed, that Isle of Dogs doesn’t get lost in translation this awards season. A good friend of mine, told me that she’s rooting for this movie to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars and to completely skip the Best Animation category. I completely agree and back her opinion. The film also receives all five stars from me. Isle of Dogs has proven that it’s a worthy film to be up in the ranking for Best Picture. Frame-by-frame, Anderson’s love for dogs artfully comes full circle. In the end, Isle of Dogs is an imaginative work of art, but it comes with a bite.
Isle of Dogs is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements and some violent images.