Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs (Japanese: 犬ヶ島, Hepburn: Inugashima) is a 2018 stop-motion science-fiction comedy-drama animated film written, produced, and directed by Wes Anderson. Set in a dystopian near-future Japan, the story follows a pack of banished dogs, led by street dog Chief (Bryan Cranston), who helps a young boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin) search for his own dog after the species is banished to an island following the outbreak of a canine flu. The film's ensemble voice cast also includes Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Kunichi Nomura, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Akira Ito, Greta Gerwig, Akira Takayama, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Courtney B. Vance, Yojiro Noda, Fisher Stevens, Mari Natsuki, Nijiro Murakami, Yoko Ono, Harvey Keitel, and Frank Wood.
When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.
Why It Rocks
- Amazing and detailed stop-motion animation that looks great with the style of Wes Anderson films. It even has a great use of hand-drawn animation sequences, which is a less common animation style in movies now.
- It has a great message on how it's important to treat animals respectfully.
- Great character designs that fit the stop-motion animation style.
- Likable characters, especially Atari, Tracy, and the dogs. Many of these characters could also be decent role-models for teenagers as well.
- It stays true to Japanese culture, and realistically portrays them as speaking their native language (but usually a translator will be present, or it might be easy to tell what is being said with context).
- The idea of a film about dogs being banished from Japan is fairly interesting and unique.
- Great humor, such as the scenes when the dogs ask to take a vote.
- Good twists and turns.
- Awesome musical score of Alexandre Desplat, especially background music, which reflects Japan's music very well.
- The story can get very emotional at times, such as when Atari and Spots are injured in a fight and are later shown undergoing surgery.
- Great action scenes, which are often very intense.
- It proves that animation doesn't necessarily have to be for young children, as it is an animated movie that's rated PG-13.
- Lots of heartwarming moments, such as when Atari and Spots finally meet up, Spots becomes a father to some puppies, and when Atari learns who Chief really is.
- Spots' puppies are adorable.
- It has a very happy ending, where the dogs finally come back to Japan, the mayor admits to his mistakes and helps save Atari, Atari becomes the mayor, and when Spots and Peppermint raise their puppies.
- Bryan Cranston's performance as Chief is great.
- While it portrays Japanese culture accurately, it was sometimes accused of racial stereotyping and cultural appropriation.
- Major-Domo's character design might be a little unsettling for some people.
Isle of Dogs received praise for its animation, story, and deadpan humor. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 270 reviews, and an average rating of 8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The beautifully stop-motion animated Isle of Dogs finds Wes Anderson at his detail-oriented best while telling one of the director's most winsomely charming stories." On Metacritic, which assigns normalized ratings to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 54 critics, indicating "universal acclaim." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an overall positive score of 88%.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, praising it for taking risks, and saying: "It’s smart and different and sometimes deliberately odd and really funny — rarely in a laugh-out-loud way, more in a smile-and-nod-I-get-the-joke kind of way." Exclaim! gave the film 7 out of 10, saying it "has all the hallmarks of another Wes Anderson classic."
- This is the ninth feature-length film directed by Wes Anderson and his second stop-motion film.