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Review: Isle of Dogs

Caught a screening of Isle of Dogs at Regal Union Square. Here’s where I jeopardize my credibility as a cinephile by confessing that I’m not the biggest fan of Wes Anderson. It’s not that I particularly dislike his work; it just doesn’t quite click for me the way it does with other viewers. His latest effort, though, is absolutely on my wavelength, featuring nearly all of my cinematic obsessions: innovative mixed-media animation (with a focus on Anderson’s distinctive style of stop-motion “roadkill" puppetry), thoughtful depictions of the inner lives of talking animals, and so many references to the golden age of Japanese film (including a score that frequently samples Fumio Hayasaka’s iconic Seven Samurai theme).

I adore this epic modern fairytale so much that I can hardly bring myself to dissect it. I could spill gallons of ink discussing the richly-detailed worldbuilding that fleshes out the history of Trash Island, or the beautifully executed character arc of a gruff former stray that gradually learns what it truly means to be loved by a Master, or even the brilliant use of bilingual dialogue to convey our canine protagonists’ inability to communicate with their human companion… but I won’t. Because boiled down to its most basic components, Isle of Dogs is, simply put, a heartfelt tribute to those stalwart protectors that stand guard at the foot of our beds (be they St. Bernards or Chihuahuas), requesting only a bowl of kibble and a scratch between the ears in return. It will remind you of any four-legged friends you may have lost over the years—and that is what really makes the movie connect on an emotional level.

[Originally written March 25, 2018.]

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