“ISLE OF DOGS” HOWLING GOOD FUN; “DECEPTION” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
ISLE OF DOGS (Rated PG-13) Judging by his past work in such films as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” writer-director Wes Anderson has a uniquely quirky style that has garnered him a cult audience following for those who enjoy something often pleasantly and oddly different.
His latest endeavor, the Japanese-themed stop-motion animation feature-length film “Isle of Dogs,” is definitely worth seeking out even if it may not immediately arrive at the local multiplex. This is one to savor and experience on the big screen.
Uniquely constructed in theme and style, “Isle of Dogs” is a visual treat, even if the settings are inordinately bleak, while the human characters speak Japanese with little if any translation.
Oddly enough, whatever is said by 12-year-old hero Atari (Koyu Rankin) and the corrupt Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), running Megasaki City with an iron fist, doesn’t really need subtitles, as the emotions they convey speak a universal language.
By executive decree owing to an outbreak of dog flu, the Mayor has banished all dogs to the isolated Trash Island. Young Atari, an orphan who has the misfortune of being a ward of the Mayor, makes off in a miniature plane to find his beloved canine Spots on the huge garbage dump.
The grungy mongrels Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), and King (Bob Balaban) are all victims of the anti-dog hysteria fostered by the cat-loving Mayor Kobayashi. They take a keen interest in the arrival of the kid they call the Little Pilot.
Interestingly, the canines all speak English, which of course is essential to drive the storyline for the audience. Reluctantly joining the effort to find Spots is Chief (Bryan Cranston), a stray who is definitely the supreme alpha dog.
The scrappy pack of exiled dogs joins Atari on a perilous trek across Trash Island, a desolate wasteland that was once even occupied by a now-decaying amusement park, to combat robot dogs guarding the escape path.
There is much to love about this film, including the one human who speaks English, an exchange student (Greta Gertwig) crusading as a pro-dog activist and acting as the primary nemesis to the evil Mayor Kobayashi.
I would not consider myself a member of the Wes Anderson hardcore constituency but I have certainly enjoyed some of his films. “Isle of Dogs” ranks, in my mind, as one of his very best cinematic efforts on many levels. It’s definitely a must-see film.