Set in a Japanese dystopia this stop motion animation sees Wes Anderson reassemble his loyal pack of followers with voice talents of Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansonn, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and many more to bring us Isle of Dogs.
When, by executive decree, all the dogs of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone and flies across the river in search of his beloved bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, headed by the curmudgeonly and wary Chief (Bryan Cranston) he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire city and its structures.
I often wonder what goes on in the mind of Wes Anderson, his ability to build worlds be it animated or otherwise is one of the best in film. I want to visit the places he creates, stay at the Grand Budapest Hotel, visit the Moonrise Kingdom and wander the streets on which the Tenenbaums live. The Isle of Dogs is no different albeit a little more bleak than the others. Even amidst the trash, the fleas, the dirt though there is joy, laughter, kindness and hope to be found.
The abandoned pets and strays of Trash Island are not the prettiest, not the best looking pedigree but they are wonderfully loveable, despite their quirks and tragic illness. Bryan Cranston as Chief is a wonderful grump, untrusting of humans and prone to bite; he is initially wary of Atari but gradually and unexpectedly becomes increasingly loyal to his new friend. This rag tag bunch all have their moments of humour with Jeff Goldblum's gossip loving Duke a particularly favourite of mine, although special mention to Tilda Swinton's Oracle who sees visions of the future/watches TV and repeats what she sees giving me some true moments of pure laughter.
While certain sections feel a little baggy and possibly unnecessary, Isle of Dogs maintains a good pace and likeable story throughout. The animation is at times breath taking and in a world of digital rendering, credit for the painstaking task of stop motion in this modern world must be given all the praise available to it. There may be possibly too many characters at times for even Anderson to juggle but it is an admirable feat nonetheless that such a coherent story arises from the rubble of its surroundings.
At its core Isle of Dogs asks us to question where our kindness has gone and ponder those we cast aside all too readily. In many ways Anderson is asking us to consider what indeed makes us human if not our capacity for kindness. As someone who returns to Anderson's films regularly I already know that when I revisit the Isle of Dogs, I will see more, I will hear more and while I will inevitably be charmed again by these furballs the bigger takeaway will be the compulsion to look for the cast offs that we so quickly discard.
Isle of Dogs is in cinemas now.