By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Director/screenwriter Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs”
is a stunning and delightful stop-motion animated feature. It even surpasses his 2009 hit film, “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
And while it’s too early to talk awards honors, it’s a good bet that “Isle of Dogs” will lead the pack of animated contenders.
Not only does “Isle of Dogs” boast an impressive voice cast that includes: Bryan Cranston, (TV’s “Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams”), Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) and Bill Murray (TV’s “Extra Innings”) among others, but it’s a story that’s both simplistic and complex. Yes, it’s about talking dogs—and is rather dark at times--but the film really offers so much more and is one that kids and parents can enjoy.
Narrated by Courtney B. Vance (TV’s “American Crime Story”), “Isle of Dogs” is set in the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki which is run by the cat-loving Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”).
Megasaki has been hit with a vicious plague. The city’s dogs are suffering from “Dog Flu/Snout Fever." Despite a local scientist named Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito, TV’s “The Detour”) claiming to have a cure, the mayor signs a decree banishing all dogs to “Trash Island.”
This place used to be a nuclear power plant and adventure park. Now it’s just a squalid, stretch of nothingness.
The mayor’s decision doesn’t sit well with Tracy Walker (Gerwig), an American exchange student who is facilitating the protests against Kobayashi and his ban. Even Interpreter Nelson (Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) wonders why man’s best friend is getting such a raw deal.
To show that the mayor is not above the people, his very own dog Spots (voiced by Liev Schrieber, TV’s Series “Ray Donovan”) is the first hauled off to “Trash Island.” Spots arrives with a bit of history. He’s no ordinary dog, but rather the best friend of a little boy named Atari (Rankin Koyu, “Junken”) who is the orphaned nephew and ward of Mayor Kobayashi.
Spot and Atari’s bond was unbreakable. They always kept in touch by an electronic device. Now that they are separated, Atari steals an airplane to find his four-legged friend and ends up crash- landing on “Trash Island.”
Much to his surprise, he discovers a pack of dogs living there: King, (Bob Balaban, TV’s “Condor”), Duke, (Jeff Goldblum, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”), Rex, (Edward Norton, “Collateral Beauty”), Boss (Murray) and alpha male, Chief (Cranston) who has little desire to associate with humans.
It takes a few tricks from a cute, female show dog named Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson, “Avengers: Infinity War”) to change his view.
They all finally agree to help Atari find Spots. Their wild journey also involves getting some sound advice from a couple of old geezer dogs named Jupiter (F. Murray Abraham, TV’s “The Good Fight”) and Oracle (Tilda Swinton, “Okja”).
Half the fun of “Isle of Dogs” is deciphering all the stellar voice talent, the other is getting lost in Anderson’s breathtaking animation and clever little story which he co-wrote with Roman Coppola, (“Fantastic Mr. Fox”), Jason Schwartzman (TV’s “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later”) and Kunichi Nomura.
There’s also Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water”) and his impressive score.
It' all pretty doggone good.
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Take A Peek At This Trailer For "ISLE OF DOGS"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.