Isle of Dogs
dir-scr Wes Anderson
prd Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales, Scott Rudin
voices Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton
release US 23.Mar.18, UK 30.Mar.18
18/US Fox 1h41
Isle of Dogs
Taking on the system: Atari and friends

cranston norton schreiber
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson returns to stop-motion animation with this hilariously freewheeling canine sci-fi adventure, which merrily lampoons blowhard politicians, fake news and corrupt corporations. But at its core, it's a simple story about the love between humans and dogs, and it's both very, very funny and deeply charming. For dog-lovers at least.

In the near-future city of Megasaki, Mayor Kobayashi (Nomura) has banished dogs to Trash Island. The first exile is Spots (Schreiber), the loyal watchdog of Kobayashi's orphaned 12-year-old nephew Atari (Rankin). In a rescue attempt, Atari crashes a stolen plane on the island and is found by bickering alpha dogs Chief (Cranston) and Rex (Norton), and their crew Boss, Duke and King {Murray, Goldblum and Balaban), who decide to help Atari find Spots. Meanwhile on the mainland, Kobayashi is running a ruthless re-election campaign, and the only dissenting voice is American exchange student Tracy (Gerwig).

Anderson lets this story unfurl in a delightfully random way, darting off after unexpected plotlines while taking big surprises in stride. And its mix of Japanese, English and a variety of translation styles only adds an amusing angle, highlighting the askance ways people communicate with their pets. Unsurprisingly, the dogs are heroes, and all of the bad guys have cats. And the film's visual attention to detail is witty and amazing, including colourful cut-outs city scapes, hand-drawn TV footage and a abandoned animal testing facility strewn with rubbish and, well, survivors.

The scope for subtext is fairly endless, as Kobayashi spreads false stories about opponents to make sure he keeps the gullible public on his side. And as his nefarious plan begins unraveling, he gets up to much worse than that. There's a slight problem that this human angle of the plot is far less engaging than the canine one, especially as the doggy voice actors create much more vivid characters with personality quirks that match their furry little bodies.

Anderson has ramped up the technical side of the animation considerably since Fantastic Mr Fox, and this film deploys more sophisticated figures for both humans and animals, each with a wonderfully expressive face. Each is so singular that his or her deep desires resonate strongly with the audience, pulling us into a frankly bonkers movie that veers so wildly in its storytelling that it shouldn't work at all. But it's impossible to watch without a smile on the face. And perhaps the occasional tear in the eye as well.

cert 12 themes, violence 13.Mar.18

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