Be trans­ported to An­der­son’s ‘Isle of Dogs’

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Lindsey Bahr AP writer

There is an out-of-body melan­choly that sets in about three quar­ters of the way through Wes An­der­son’s ninth fea­ture Isle of Dogs.

Yes, you will be in­ex­pli­ca­bly wrapped up in the drama of a gang of sickly, stop­mo­tion-an­i­mated dogs who have been ex­iled to a trash is­land and are de­ter­mined to get back to a life of cozy do­mes­tic­ity. You’ll be en­chanted by the film’s artistry and try­ing your best to sup­press your laugh­ter so you don’t miss a beat.

But you also start to re­al­ize that it will soon be over and you’ll have to go back to your day bereft of that wit, im­agery and sto­ry­telling, es­sen­tially nurs­ing an acute case of Wes An­der­son wist­ful­ness.

With story help from An­der­son main­stays Ro­man Cop­pola and Ja­son Schwartz­man and new ad­di­tion Ku­nichi No­mura, An­der­son writes a fa­ble of sorts set 20 years in the fu­ture, when ca­nine flu has in­fected an en­tire pop­u­la­tion of dogs, caus­ing manic be­hav­ior, weight loss and adorable sneez­ing.

It’s also sparked an anti-dog ma­nia in Ja­pan that has left some search­ing for a cure and oth­ers ea­ger to rid the coun­try of the prob­lem.

The leader, Mayor Kobayashi (No­mura) and his ghoul­ish hench­man Ma­jor-Domo (Akira Takayama) re­spond by ex­il­ing all dogs to a trash is­land and re­ject­ing any pos­si­bil­ity of a sci­en­tific so­lu­tion to the dis­ease.

Hu­mans are de­cid­edly the sup­port­ing cast mem­bers in Isle of Dogs, which more than a few peo­ple have al­ready pointed out sounds a heck of a lot like “I Love Dogs.”


On the is­land, the once pam­pered house pets have all gone (some­what) wild, fight­ing over mag­got-in­fested scraps and dream­ing of the days of dog­gie treats, baths and plush pil­lows to sleep on.

They’ve self-di­vided into lit­tle survivalist troupes and whis­per to one an­other about ru­mors of can­ni­bal dogs on the other side of the is­land.

The group we fol­low is led by Chief (Bryan Cranston) — a stray among the house pets — and con­sists of Rex (Ed­ward Nor­ton), Boss (Bill Mur­ray), King (Bob Bal­a­ban) and Duke (Jeff Gold­blum). And their world is up­ended when a boy they re­fer to as “the lit­tle pilot,” Atari (Koyu Rankin), crashes on the is­land.

“Are we eat­ing him or is this a res­cue?” one dog asks the gang as they look at Atari’s burn­ing wreck­age.

“Not sure yet,” an­other responds. An­der­son has used sim­i­lar con­struc­tions be­fore, but it’s the per­fect en­cap­su­la­tion of his hu­mor — pre­cise, straight­for­ward and a lit­tle dark.

Isle of Dogs is pos­i­tively lit­tered with his sig­na­ture ban­ter, and it’s as quick and wry

Isle of Dogs as ever, with­out a sin­gle hair out of place.

And speak­ing of hair, the look of Isle of Dogs is just oth­er­worldly — vi­brant, pur­pose­ful and jam-packed with de­tails that will make you want to watch it over and over.

You may want to do a quick re­fresher on the voice ac­tors be­fore sit­ting down for a show­ing, so that you don’t go mad try­ing to place where you’ve heard that voice be­fore.

There’s Scar­lett Jo­hans­son as a pris­tine show dog, Nut­meg. Greta Ger­wig is a young freck­led girl lead­ing the pro-dog move­ment. Frances McDor­mand is an in­ter­preter.

Isle of Dogs also fea­tures the vo­cal stylings of Yoko Ono, Tilda Swin­ton, Ken Watan­abe, Fisher Stevens, Liev Schreiber, Har­vey Kei­tel, F. Mur­ray Abra­ham — and Court­ney B. Vance as the nar­ra­tor.

Oh, and An­gel­ica Hus­ton has a credit as “mute poo­dle.”

That An­der­son can still tell an ex­cit­ing story — within the struc­ture of his unique vis­ual lan­guage that we’ve got­ten to know so well — is just a tes­ta­ment to his in­can­des­cent ge­nius. We don’t de­serve Wes An­der­son, but we should be eter­nally grate­ful he doesn’t seem to mind.

is a fa­ble of sorts, set 20 years in the fu­ture.

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