“Isle of Dogs”
Directed by Wes Anderson
So, I’m not a Wes Anderson fan. I’m not NOT a Wes Anderson fan. I like him fine, but I don’t automatically subscribe to his brand of snarky humor just because he puts out a film. So…where does that put me with “Isle of Dogs”?
I friggin’ LOVED this movie. Everything about it was, to me, charming. At times silly, hilarious, sweet, sad, and captivating, it’s been a while since I had so much fun sitting in a darkened theater. Now, I realize that the snark I mentioned earlier isn’t for everyone. But in this instance it’s not coming from people, which, as a result makes them appear to be grossly entitled. No, aided by the brilliant animation, this snark comes from a pack of personable dogs who utilize every Jack Benny slow-burn in the book to tell this creative – and crazy – story.
Of course, as good as the script is, without killer voice over performances it would simply be a silly story. And, on top of that, most movie star types aren’t actually very good at animated VO. Luckily for Anderson he has infused his characters with real pros. Led by Bryan Cranston, the main pack of dogs is voiced by Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, and Bill Murray. Add to that, my voice over idol, Liev Schreiber, and a brilliant cameo by Harvey Keitel and you’ve got a pretty special piece of animation. Only Greta Gerwig fails to live up to the quality around her, but I’ll put that down to some pretty lazy writing for her character.
Written by Anderson with Roman Coppola and longtime Anderson stalwarts, Jason Schwarzmann and Kunichi Nomura, it would be futile to explain the story to you (not that I would anyway), but trust me, it is a truly outrageous story that takes place in a strange but, somehow, very recognizable cinematic location, filled with not one (well, maybe one) uninteresting character. And, most importantly, never judges its characters simply for a laugh (no fart or poop jokes). This ain’t no “Secret Life of Pets”. No, this is a film about a journey toward salvation – with some really introspective AND hilarious stuff along the way.
I have no idea who to assign congrats to for the shockingly effective animation. The list on IMDB is endless. But I’m sure production designers, Paul Harrod and Adam Stockhausen, had a LOT to do with it. So, too, Curt Enderle’s art direction. And Alexandre Desplat’s clever score takes advantage of the locale while never interfering with the action or emotions (and throws in some Japanese-tinged Prokofiev for good measure). It’s his most subtle score for an Anderson film yet.
This, to me, is one of the first great films of the year. However, I’m absolutely CERTAIN many won’t agree with my ultra-positive take on it…Anderson films are, indeed, polarizing. But I spent ninety minutes delighted with where he took me…alternately laughing and crying throughout.
Of course (and full disclosure here), I live alone with a dog I’ve been lucky to be with for over nine years now. So, as ever, your mileage may vary.
Whatever. Go see this and have a ball.
Written on 4/7/2018