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| 18 April 2018 | Reply

Screenplay by Wes Anderson
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Koyu Rankin, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8 ½ /10

Wes Anderson’s latest stop motion film, Isle Of Dogs, is a visual and comedic delight, with the added bonus of being a cautionary tale against cat lovers.

No, I’m (mostly) kidding, though corrupt cat person Mayor Kobayashi – whose ancestors have history in a centuries old cat v dog blood feud – does banish all the dogs of Nagasaki to Trash Island upon a wave of manufactured hysteria about dog fever and snout virus.

However, he didn’t count on his adopted ward Atari crash landing his light plane on Trash Island in search of his much-missed dog Spot, leading the young boy to team up with a motley collection of mutts, voiced – in a stroke of casting genius – by the likes of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson and Harvey Keitel.

As the pack try to get Atari to safety, exchange student Tracey Walker is petitioning the Mayor for a reversal of the banishment, and between them, they discover the truth about Atari’s parents’ death, Professor Watanabe’s apparent suicide, the vaccine he developed, and the forgotten connection between Spot and Chief.

To say more would give the plot away – scant though it is. The simplicity of the story is made up for by the loving intricacy of the animation, the very striking Japanese style artwork, and some hilarious sequences masterfully produced. Note must also be made of language throughout, with much of the film delivered in Japanese – half untranslated. Anderson’s screenplay is so well balanced that we understand the tone of these parts even if we do not understand the words, and we never feel for a moment that we don’t know what is going on.

Most of all though, there are some truly tender and touching moments as the dogs and Atari develop their bonds.

An argument could also be made that the film can act on some level as a parable for Western Society’s treatment of refugees or those different to us, though any deliberate or accidental political overtones are subtle rather than overt.

Simple, quirky and adorable, Isle Of Dogs may not be Anderson’s best – and some have accused the film of favouring style over substance, not unfairly – but it’s a joy to watch.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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