“Isle of Dogs” takes place in a dystopian Japan of Megasaki City. An outbreak occurs where a dog flu virus affects the entire population of canines. Because of this, the Mayor of Megasaki has the entire dog population banished to an island of trash and wreckage. Six months after the event, twelve-year-old Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) flies to the island in search of his dog Spots (Liev Schreiber). After a dangerous landing, Atari is rescued by a pack of dogs named: Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and Boss (Bill Murray). With their help, Atari will journey to the farthest reaches of the island in order to find his dog, no matter what obstacles they may encounter. The film also features the voice talents of Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, F. Murray Abraham, and Harvey Keitel.
“Isle of Dogs” is not the typical animated movie you’d normally see from companies like Pixar or Dream Works—the film is shot in stop-motion. Every set piece and character presented on screen has been handcrafted and molded by hand, than through painstaking filmmaking, edited into the motion picture it is now. And thanks to the film’s writer and director Wes Anderson, the cinematography of Tristan Oliver, and a large art department of puppet and environment makers, the whole animated film is a pleasing visual voyage for all viewers.
Another major plus for the film is the large ensemble of voices. Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Bryan Cranston, everyone among the English cast is an absolute treasure in the film. For those that may be confused why I called them the English cast, well that’s because only the dog characters in the film speak English, while over 75% of all dialogue from the human characters is spoken in Japanese—without subtitles. This might seem like an odd decision, but actually, it only adds to the film’s authenticity; because even the dogs admit to not being able to understand the humans at times. Not only that, but even if you cannot interpret the Japanese language, from just the movement and expressions of the animation, along with the tone of the actors, you understand what they’re trying to convey. Without chancing spoilers, the film does find ways to translate what certain Japanese characters are saying through clever means—so there’s no fear of the audience-losing track of the story.
The last thing I need to address before my readers consider taking their kids out to see this is the tone of the film. Despite how innocent the plot sounds on paper, this is not a kids’ film. In fact, the film is more of an animated Adventure/Comedy than a children’s movie. “Isle of Dogs” is no “Lassie” or “Secret Life of Pets,” it doesn’t rely on colorful and silly, slapstick, comedy, but the humor presented from the characters, and the emotion and delivery of the actors. And when the film is not being funny, the tone shifts and takes the audience into a grim and moody setting, with long pauses without dialogue, and just letting the visuals set the mood; the film is almost like a Tim Burton movie in that regard. Plus, the film does not shy away from showing scenes of disfigured dogs and characters being injured.
Because of this, “Isle of Dogs” has been given the rating of PG-13 for thematic elements and some violent images. Despite possessing a grim and somber tone at times, when the movie wants to be funny and action packed, it does a tremendous job of it. If you love animated movies that offer impressive visuals, or if you’re just someone who loves movies about dogs, than “Isle of Dogs” will satisfy you on both accounts and give you a fresh experience. I mean every word when I say that this it a must-see for interested viewers. Which is why the final score for “Isle of Dogs” is a 9 out of 10.
Marco Island resident and avid moviegoer, Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a bachelor’s degree in science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. In his four years at Lynn, Matthew managed to achieve Magna Cum Laude status, earn three publications in the Lynn University magazine, make a short documentary featured in the university’s Film Festival, and created a radio PSA that was later broadcasted overseas.