In an alternative Japan, intelligent dogs are downtrodden victims of social prejudice due to an ancient conflict. Following the outbreak of dog flu, Mayor Kobayashi of Megasaki hatches a plan to quarantine the dogs on a remote island. But when Kobayashi’s son makes it there in search of his pet, he joins a group of dogs with voices of identical-sounding American men to search for his pal and save all of dogkind.
The film starts strongly with a flashback prologue, showcasing the stunningly detailed animation and taiko drum-infused soundtrack which give it such a unique look and feel. The humans appear almost as real as those in Anomalisa, and there are a number of striking innovations in the way the film is animated, like switching from stop motion models to hand-drawn 2D animation when footage is shown on screens.
However, the wonderful work of a large number of artists is utterly ruined as Wes Anderson constructs a deadeningly dull and totally nonsensical film which feels far longer than its 100 minutes. The total lack of internal logic renders investment in the plot redundant, and divests the film of all suspense. And confusion over what type of film it wants to be make this less canine and more ca-nein!
It’s not really a kids film, in spite of what the talking animals suggest, with scenes featuring maimed dogs and operations. It’s not a comedy because it’s not funny, and it’s not an action/adventure because it’s boring as hell. Maybe this low-quality dog movie will start a new genre: the sub-woofer.
Anderson’s wise-ass decision to give all the main dog characters the voices of middle aged American men (Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum) makes it hard to hear the difference between them, and the enforced deadpan style stunts the characterisation of the talented cast. But if this wasn’t bad enough for diversity, Anderson makes the one human hero in Megasaki the film’s only white character, in the form of American exchange student Tracey (Greta Gerwig). Unsurprisingly he’s already in the doghouse over that.
A lot of the attempted humour comes from cutesy dog moments, like a guard dog being given a bath, but on this level it’s as entertaining as a scroll through any Facebook newsfeed. The only genuinely amusing thing about this film is the fitting irony of the Kobayashi family sharing a name with the no-win scenario in Star Trek.
We had the peculiar distinction of watching this film on the Isle of Dogs itself. But even that couldn’t stop this barking bad snooze-fest from making me flea the cinema.
This is a great review that speaks to the virtues of the film very well. Plus I liked the Star Trek irony. I found Isle of Dogs hollow and not as emotionally accessible as Anderson’s other films.
You can find out more in my review below:
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