Isle of Dogs

isle_of_dogs_ver2_xlgDirected by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Wes Anderson who is best known for 1998’s Rushmore, 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums, 2009’s animated Fantastic Mr. Fox, and 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs is a beautiful stop-motion animated film with the trademark meticulous detailing and deadpan humor of a Wes Anderson project. The truly peculiar story revolves around the fictional Megasaki City in Japan that under the ruthless leadership of Mayor Kobayashi has removed all dogs and exiled them to a desolate island known as Trash Island. Kobayashi claims that all canines must be eradicated because they carry a particular disease that could spread to humans, and he even ignores the scientist Professor Watanabe who says he is close to finding a cure that would allow the dogs to live safely among humans again. Much of the film focuses on the adventures of a group of dogs living on the island: Rex, voiced by Edward Norton; Boss, voiced by Bill Murray; King, voiced by Bob Balaban; Duke, voiced by Jeff Goldblum; and Chief, voiced by Bryan Cranston. After the appearance of a young boy named Atari who is looking for his beloved dog Spots, voiced by Liev Schreiber, the dogs decide to help Atari travel across Trash Island despite it being full of dangers, including a rumored gang of cannibalistic dogs. As a stray dog who feels out of place with the pet dogs, Chief begrudgingly goes along with the plan, but eventually he becomes more fond of Atari and the other dogs, especially the show dog Nutmeg, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Back in the city, a foreign exchange high school student named Tracy Walker, voiced by Greta Gerwig, is suspicious of Kobayashi and investigates him as the center of a conspiracy theory in which all dogs are purposely exterminated in order to favor cats. In an unusual twist, the film’s dialogue alternates between English, which all the dogs speak, and Japanese, which is presented without subtitles and is occasionally translated by the on-screen character Interpreter Nelson, voiced by Frances McDormand. As is the case with Wes Anderson’s other work, the most remarkable aspect of the movie is the obsessive detail that is put into the scene design and the painstaking lengths he takes in order to create a surrealistic depiction of the characters through the use of stop-motion animation. Overall, I found it to be a remarkable cinematic achievement because of its visionary use of animation and ability to tell an exceptionally creative and heartwarming story about persecuted talking dogs. It is definitely a weird film that will not appeal to all moviegoers but will delight fans of Wes Anderson’s unique style and dog lovers.

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