Tony's Take

ISLE OF DOGS review

 A Boy’s Search for His Dog

Dogs are man’s best friend.  In “Isle of Dogs”, the latest from Wes Anderson, that is not exactly the case.  Taking place in Japan, dogs have become infected with various sicknesses, such as: snout fever, dog flu, and aggression.  To combat this and to protect the city of Megasaki, Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) establishes an executive order that demands all dogs be sent to Trash Island; including the Mayor’s ward Atari’s (Koyu Rankin) guard dog, Spots.  Here, on Trash Island, we are introduced to 5 dogs that are grouped-together to survive the cannibalistic and other infected dogs on the island.  A former house pet named Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and a stray named Chief (Bryan Cranston).  After surviving a threat, they witness Atari’s plane explode mid-air and crash on Trash Island.  After reviving him, the group (minus Chief) entirely support and are encouraged to aid Atari in his search to find Spots (Live Schreiber); Chief is still feeling conflicted as he has never been compassionate with a “master”.  As Atari and his new friends navigate Trash Island, a young foreign exchange student named Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) is attempting to uncover the conspiracy behind the ban on dogs.  Led-by Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) and Assistant Scientist Yoko Ono (Yoko One), a cure/treatment has been developed and Tracy believes Mayor Kobayashi and Major Domo (Akira Takayama) have been hiding this information to get the people on-board with his plan to euthanize all dogs on Trash Island and win his re-election.

Wes Anderson’s fantastic adventure entertains the viewer to their very core; his storytelling endears you to the characters in a way rarely seen in today’s cinema, that is sure to resonate with dog (and all pet) lovers everywhere.  The story at the heart of “Isle of Dogs” captivates your attention in many different ways.  Filled with love, loyalty, persecution, and conspiracy theories, the multi-layered plot keeps the film riveting and the viewer interested.  However, the heart of the film comes from the incredible cast that was put together to provide voice work.  As mentioned before, the main cast consists of Cranston, Norton, Balaban, Murray, Goldblum, and Rankin.  Each of the actor’s mannerisms can be seen manifested by the dogs they portray; which is truly quite incredible.  Supporting voices also consist of Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, and Courtney B. Vance, as well as a few others.  The spectacular voice work brings heart and emotion to the characters and the story and is makes the finished product that much better!  While the story and characters are important, the largest reason for the film’s impressive success is its humor.  “Isle of Dogs” is filled with endless laughs; whether it’s the recurring gags (have you heard the rumor, let’s take a vote), the endless “dog trait” references, or the comedic timing.  Each joke lands with an impressive amount of weight and it makes “Isle of Dogs” one of the best films of the year.  The stop-motion animation is beautiful, fitting the film’s plot elements with perfection; and as the film plays-out, one cannot help but to appreciate just how much time it took to make this film.  The film has a run time of 101 minutes, but perhaps its only flaw is that it drags a little during the bloated middle chapter.  “Isle of Dogs” is fun for the whole family!

“Isle of Dogs” is that incredibly rare feat of film-making that only occurs every so often.  Equal parts entertaining and heartfelt, the film delivers on every level!  Not only do I expect it to do well at the box office, but it has to be a sure-nominee for next year’s Best Animated Film category.  Not only that, but it’s going to be hard to top it.  So do yourself a favor this weekend, show your pet how much you love them and go see “Isle of Dogs”!!   

 4.5/5   

ISLE OF DOGS is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent images, in theaters MARCH 23RD!

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