Movie: Isle of Dogs
My Rating: 3 stars
I think I’ll always continue to see any movie that Wes Anderson puts out, regardless of its strengths or weaknesses. Some of his movies are more compelling than others (to put it diplomatically). But, even when the content is a bit thinner, I still enjoy Anderson’s aesthetic. And it this case, I think the film’s visual charms carried the majority of the burden. This is a story set in Japan on an island to which the city authorities have banished all dogs. (The pro-cat faction has taken control of the government, and isn’t tolerating any mutts hanging around). And, one little boy, Atari, has set out on a mission to find and rescue his dog. Of course, the mission doesn’t go quite as he planned, so the island dogs decide to step in and help him out.
This is a cute enough premise, but this movie is really more about the elaborate, visual set-pieces than the story. (This is another Claymation offering, along the lines of Fantastic Mr. Fox). But, I don’t think the movie’s narrative weakness ruined too much of my enjoyment. Because that’s not really what drove me to watch this one. Let’s admit it, we’re all watching these movies for the quirky visuals and appealing retro vibe. And, in this case, the quirky touch is that the story is told mostly from the point of view of the dogs. So, the audience can understand what the pups are saying. But since dogs can’t understand human language, we can’t understand what the people are saying. Well, I guess you could understand everything if you spoke Japanese. But since the conceit of the film is that the human characters are always babbling away in the background and don’t really have much bearing on what the dogs are up to, we aren’t given subtitles when the human characters are speaking. That’s kind of clever.
People didn’t seem to like this movie very much. It struck some viewers as too experimental. And, others were offended by the use of Japanese tropes and culture by a white director. But, I like when directors try new things, and I’m pretty hard to offend. So, I was on-board for this movie. It was one I really wanted to see, and I was satisfied with the experience. And, since anticipating a film too much ahead of time usually ruins it for me, I count this as a success. So, I recommend this movie for is strangeness and silliness. However, if you prefer broad comedies and mainstream blockbusters, I’d advise you to skip this one.