DIRECTOR WES Anderson is on a bit of a roll. His last two films, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, have been among his best work, but I was a little disappointed at his decision to step back into stop motion animation.
His only real mis-step as a director has been his version of Fantastic Mr Fox, which over-complicated a brilliant, simple, story. As a result, this reviewer was left slightly apprehensive despite being a huge fan of the director usually and a massive fan of stop motion animation.
Set in a dystopian future, the dogs in fictional Japanese city Megasaki have contracted a disease called snout fever. Concerned that the disease will jump the species barrier and infect the human, the evil (and dog hating ) mayor of the city decrees all dogs must be sent to live on Trash Island. A few months later a young boy called Atari steals a plane and heads to island to find his beloved dog Spots. When he lands he meets a gang of dogs named Rex, King, Duke, Boss, and Chief. They agree the right thing to do is help Atari to navigate Trash Island and find Spots.
The voice acting is really wonderful, particularly from Ed Norton, Greta Gerwig, and of course the great Jeff Goldblum. The actors were in a recording booth together and told to come in with their lines where it felt natural, to actually have conversation. It makes for a brilliant watch, it is incredibly funny and it feels natural.
One contentious decision was to have the Japanese characters speak Japanese untranslated unless it was part of the narrative (like a translator being present in the scene ) but the dogs' barks are translated to English. There is also one English speaking character. Personally I did not mind this at all. It really invests you in the dogs, and puts a distance between them and the humans, you understand the love between Atari and Spot, but also understand that their love is a love different to that between Spots and his female dog partner. The difference between this and Marley and Me is that Isle Of Dogs is a dog movie, not a human movie.
The politics are Orwellian, with a sprinkle of Trump - the terrible mayor of Megasaki is big talking strong man whipping up fear and jailing his political opponents. None of this is too on the nose, it really is one of the few times a non Pixar movie can be enjoyed by all ages. There are definitely some scary scenes for more delicate young ones and one sushi scene that will make you squirm.