Isle of Dogs (2018)

isle of dogs poster 2018 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting : 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

More layered than expected, dark

Not for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Isle of Dogs

Studio:  Studio Babelsberg

Genre(s):  Animated/Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  March 15, 2018 (Berlin International Film Festival)/March 23, 2018 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

isle of dogs cast animation

Dogs can forgive

A disease is spreading among dogs, and Mayor Kenji Kobayashi has decided dogs must be banned from Megasaki City…beginning with his own dog Spot.  Kobayashi’s ward Atari has vowed to get Spot back and voyaged to Trash Island where he finds himself teamed with abandoned dogs on a search for his own dog.  As Atari explores Trash Island, a resistance is building in Megasaki City and the conspiracy the government is hiding.

Written and directed by Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs (犬ヶ島 or Inugashima) is a stop-motion animated comedy fantasy-adventure film.  Following The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014, the Anderson film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and was released to critical praise.  The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.

Wes Anderson can hardly do any wrong in my opinion.  Even his bad movies (I’d consider The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited “bad”) are leaps and bounds above most mainstream movies.  He has an instantly recognizable style and format, but for some reason his storytelling decisions keep him from just being rehash every time.  Isle of Dogs is no different in that respect.

isle of dogs resistance tracy greta gerwig

Viva la Resistance!!!

Isle of Dogs was highly influence by Akira Kurosawa (another favorite of mine).  It dives into mythic storytelling and combines that with Kurosawa’s visual style.  While on the surface, it might look like a kids’ film or family film, the story and the script are rather dark (it is PG-13).  I was expecting a lighter story and the darkness is what pleasantly surprised me.  I liked the layers of the story and the fact it wasn’t as simple as the trailer set it up to be.

Anderson continues to dive deep into his actor pool for his films.  Anderson adds Bryan Cranston to his list with the lead role for the movie as Chief.  Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, and Akira Ito voice in untranslated Japanese though through clever writing much of the dialogue is transposed.  The movie is filled out by voice work by Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Liev Schreiber, Courtney B. Vance, and a nod to Anjelica Huston as the “Mute Poodle”.

isle of dog atari hugs chief bryan cranston

Even Chief needs a boy!

Like most Anderson movies, the visuals are a character of their own.  Like The Fantastic Mr. Fox, the stop motion animation is stylized and fantastic, but Anderson even steps it up by including traditional animation mixed in with the stop-motion animation in sequences like new reports…it is a great looking film.

I can’t say I was very enthusiastic about Isle of Dogs when I saw the trailer, but I was pleasantly surprised by the film.  Anderson’s original voice and decisions within the script kept the movie fresh, entertaining, and surprisingly dark.  Isle of Dogs isn’t really a kids’ movie (The Fantastic Mr. Fox could be considered one more so), but adults will enjoy feeling like a kid again while watching it.  Wes Anderson followed Isle of Dogs with The French Dispatch in 2021.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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