Isle of Dogs
- MPAA Rating:
- 101 mins
- Byran Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson
- Wes Anderson
- Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales, Scott Rudin
Content at a Glance
brief references to dogs mating
“da**it” twice; “son of a b****” and “b****” once
a few scenes of dogs fighting; a dog’s ear is bitten off; a boy is injured several times, occasional background painting of violent samurai acts, including a mechanical piece stuck in his head; a scene of live fish being made into sushi; a kidney transplant is shown; all in animated context
a human character has a drink at a bar
brief animated rear nudity
Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his dog.
If Wes Anderson were to make a film, to tell a story in the tradition of an Akira Kurosawa samurai folklore, then I suppose Isle of Dogs would be the closest thing we could come to expect. His latest, never anything less than visually and aurally gorgeous, has an order to abide to: the urgent, needful relationship between humans and dogs, just like the Japanese cinema’s adherence to duty and honor, amongst others. Formally, Anderson has something nice to say about these relationships, but after a streak of masterpieces, his latest falls short.
How, exactly, has this happened? Anderson is no beginner to stop-motion animation, exemplifying unmatched skill in his 2009 film Fantastic Mr. Fox. No, stylistically the film is not problematic. In fact, for the (roughly) 100 minutes of screentime, the best parts of the film contained no dialogue and sound sourced between Alexandre Desplat’s perfect score and the sneezing of the dogs (they have dog flu, after all). By the credits, the most enjoyable times would make a sweet-hearted silent film.
Which leads me to believe that the plot, which there is little of, and dialogue—two Anderson staples, mind you—weighed the film down. Ever the idiosyncratic stylist, Anderson’s stories and words have a way of drawing attention to themselves, often times delightfully so. But in Isle of Dogs, there is a dissonance between plot and words, so much so that 100 minutes could not entirely satisfy. The packs of dogs show promise in archetypes, but the people are not treated with the same level of interest. Instead, the film rather bounces around, aimlessly wandering for a home. In this film’s case, home is not away from the Isle of Dogs back to Japan, but to the whereabouts of a more convincing story.
Because it is so visually enticing, Isle of Dogs will still likely go down well for established Anderson fans and animation connoisseurs alike. Due to brief utterances of stronger language and violence that, albeit animated, might be a tad strong for too young viewers, Dove is unable to award the film its approval.