Fans of Wes Anderson’s uniquely eccentric oeuvre will find plenty to enjoy in Isle of Dogs, his second foray into stop-motion animation following Fantastic Mr Fox.
Essentially a story about a boy’s search for his lost dog, the twist here is that it is set in future Japan, where dogs have been outlawed and exiled to “Trash Island”, due a virus that dogs have contracted that humans fear could turn against them. Amusingly and cleverly, whilst the human characters speak in their native languages (often untranslated), we are informed, with typical Anderson idiosyncrasy, that barks have been “translated”, so all the dogs speak English.
An incredible cast including Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F Murray Abraham, Greta Gerwig, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Francis McDormand, Bill Murray, Koyu Rankin and Edward Norton lend their vocals to good effect, and Alexandre Desplat contributes a clever, percussive music score. The animation has an agreeably tactile, scraggy edge to it, achieved by Anderson moving the characters every other frame, rather than every frame. It’s visually stunning, with occasional edgier, more gruesome imagery that doesn’t go so far as to make it unsuitable for children, but clearly delineates the film as non-Disney.
The subtext of the film appears to be a comment about immigration and the lies and propaganda that often surround that issue. However, it doesn’t come off as overly political. In the end, it can just be read as a story about a boy and his dog.
Quirky, offbeat and visually arresting, Isle of Dogs certainly isn’t going to win Anderson any new fans, but those who like his work will doubtless find plenty to please them.