Isle Of Dogs Review – Magical; Heartwarming; Stunning Animation

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Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs, from Fox Searchlight Pictures and Indian Paintbrush, presents a heartwarming tale of a boy and his dog after a disease causes all dogs to be banished to Trash Island off the coast of Japan.

Directed and co-written by Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs stars the voice talent of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Anjelica Huston, Roman Coppola, Courtney B. Vance, Live Schreiber, Fisher Stevens, Nijiro Murakami, Mari Natsuki, Ken Watanabe, Yoko Ono, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Akira Ito, Akira Takayama, Kunichi Nomura, and introducing Koyu Rankin as Atari.

Isle of Dogs opens with voice over narration, by Courtney B. Vance, detailing the canine flue affecting all dogs and with fears it would cross over into the human populations the feline friendly regime of Mayor Kobayashi, voiced by Kunichi Nomura, issues a decree effective immediately that would have all canines of Megasaki City banished to Trash Island off the coast of Japan.


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Soon Trash Island is full of dogs of all kinds: once pampered pooches, Alpha Males, house doggies forced from the comforts of their homes and the owners who loved them, showered them with treats, played fetch and stood guard warning approaching trouble with a snarl to flee.

As necessity is the mother of all invention, in order to survive, the dogs form packs as they begin to lose their identities faced with their circumstances.

Chief, voiced by Bryan Cranston, carries a secret which the others do not know and wouldn't consider his advice worthy if they knew becomes the encourager to this pampered Alpha Males who are thrown into chaos.

Throughout the exile, the dogs, Rex, voiced by Edward Norton, King, voiced by Bob Balaban, Boss, voiced by Bill Murray, and Duke, voiced by Jeff Goldblum, learn even as they are cast into this deep pit of homelessness they are still the strong, who-rah, fierce defender of family, guard dogs.

Suddenly life on the island takes on purpose as Atari, voiced by Koyu Rankin, the ward of Mayor Kobayashi hijacks a Junior turbo prop plane and with no experience, flies to the island, looking for his guard dog, Spots, voiced by Live Schreiber, who was taken from him.

The story continues in both mainland Japan and on Trash Island, with the boy Atari willing to take on the army for his dog. As he and the Alpha Pack begin to search through the mountains of trash, traversing waste that has decomposed to become toxic poisonous gases, piles of unknown waste.

With dual stories, Atari's love for Spots emboldens him to face down an army and the Canines who don't become buried under their circumstances and lose themselves in the fight to retain their identity. And of course the mainland story of the corrupt Mayor Kobayashi, the team of scientists, and those tracking Atari.

I really enjoyed Isle of Dogs. It is an imaginative, fantastical, journey. The work of Wes Anderson, who micro manages each detail to its fullest and exactness.

Isle of Dogs is heavily influenced by the Japanese culture, and as one can see through all the messaging on the advertisements, during the films intro and ending sequences a trio of traditional Japanese drummers, in authentic costumes, so meticulously and painstakingly developed, playing a ferocious beat are alarmingly realistic commanding the attention.

As Isle of Dogs is a stop-gap motion animated film, which in translation means that each piece of every cahracter from the body to the thousand of facial expressions are made and changed out when it is necessary to reflect that look. It is a careful and conscientious process, to which an artist essentially creates however many facial expressions necessary to complete the film, thirty, fifty, hundreds or thousands.


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The story is heartwarming, a boy and his dog, it has the same effect as when the usual devastating headlines are set aside for the one that reunites the family pet that was surely lost. Even as Isle of Dogs is set in the future the mainland story has the feel of 1950's Japanese Cinema.

Isle of Dogs is Wes Anderson at his best. It is charming, detailed, quirky, a story with heart. His "pack," an all-star cast of talent providing the voices to this whimsical fantasy create a home and hearth, a universal feeling, of comfort, courage, hope and even when the words are lost.

Isle of Dogs opens March 23, 2018. See it. In Japanese and English.

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