Be transported to Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’
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.”
FOLLOWING ONE GROUP OF SURVIVALIST 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.