Isle of Dogs
Featured voices: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Greta Gerwig, Edward Norton, Konichi Nomura, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban
Writer-director Wes Anderson’s second wholly animated picture is a sort of sci-fi comedy adventure, set ‘twenty years into the future’, about a pack of dogs struggling to survive on an island of trash, situated off the coast of fictional Japanese city Megasaki. The canine population were banished there some years earlier by corrupt mayor Kobayashi (voiced by co-writer Konichi Nomura) because of ‘canine flu’. The story revolves around a pack of once-domesticated and now abandoned dogs led by the gruff but haunted stray Chief (a soulful Cranston). When a twelve-year-old boy Atari (Koyu Rankin) crashes his plane on the island while searching for his dog Spots, the pack decide to help the boy, who, it is revealed, is Kobayashi’s nephew. Along the way they encounter a psychic pug Oracle (Tilda Swinton) and sultry ex-showdog poodle Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson). The dogs are lovingly rendered, replete with rippling fur and visibly marauding tics, and the script features Anderson’s trademark wry digressive dialogue. But while the picture boasts an impressive voice cast, the deadpan droll delivery from the likes of Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Bob Balaban is, at times, confusingly samey. In a move that is as novel as it is tiresome, Anderson has the human Japanese characters speaking in their native tongue with no subtitles (although occasionally interpreted by Frances McDormand’s news correspondent) meaning we are as much in the dark as to what they are saying as the (American English-speaking) dogs. So, while Anderson devotees will probably love it, others may find his brand of hermetically sealed whimsy, in animated form and over a feature length running time, a little wearying.