What do you get when an abandoned island teeming with bands of marooned and sick dogs off the coast of Japan become true heroes and more human than the humans that left them to their own devices? You get a wild and funny ride through a cross-cultural and species blitz of highly creative genius and entertainment that steals the show, dog or otherwise. This reviewer is not going to give you the whole story; just get you salivating for something very different and a real treat on the big screen, or any screen for that matter.
Isle of Dogs directed by Wes Anderson deftly employs stop action animation and real life appearing puppetry to fully embody distinct dog personalities vocally represented by well-loved American actors, (Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban and Bryan Cranston).
Using the story convention of boy and his dog through a 12 year old, Atari Kobayashi, who lost his parents and was adopted by his “distant uncle,” Isle of Dogs provides new plot twists and stunningly colorful turns as Atari gets in a plane in his city of Megasaki, takes off, then crash lands on Trash Island in search of his loyal dog Spots. Spots and many dogs of both high and low office had been missing since his uncle who is the city’s mayor and his evil henchmen in the administration secretly created a dog disease as an excuse to ban both strays and beloved pets in the city, exiling them to this nuclear danger zone, (reference to Fukishima is directly indirect).
While the political machinations come to a boil, so does the activism of a group of Japanese high school students, initially spurred on by a strident female American exchange student, who see through the inane injustice and demand a new day for dogs and all the befuddled citizens of Megasaki.
In addition to the spoken English and uncaptioned Japanese, the poignant and cleverly designed industrial ruins in the landscapes of Trash Island speak contextual volumes about what has gone astray with human values, while the relationships between the dogs can show us how our best angels can be restored as the values oft associated with dogs; the steadfast companionship and loyalty, persistence through adversity, and yes, friskiness, lust and playfulness romp through this action-packed adventure that will win viewers hearts and minds as it builds to a big science moment and climax for this love story of redemption and renewal.