This may be heresy to some, but up until now, I haven’t been that big of a Wes Anderson fan. The way that he sees the world warms many a heart, but often leaves me cold. Then, this happened. Merging stop motion animation with canines, he has a real winner. Come this weekend, Isle of Dogs gets released and, pardon the pun, unleashes Anderson’s best yet. Again, take that with a grain of salt, since he’s not my favorite, but never has his work been this charming. For children and adults alike, this is one of 2018’s very best offerings yet.
The film is an animated adventure, as only Anderson could do. Set in a near future Japan, the flick follows a boy named Atari (voice of Koyu Rankin) as he goes in search of his lost dog Spots (voice of Liev Schreiber). The nephew of Mayor Kobayashi (voice of Kunichi Nomura), the cat loving politician who banned all dogs to a trash island, Atari travels there and is helped by a rag tag group of canines, including Rex (voice of Edward Norton), Chief (voice of Bryan Cranston), Boss (voice of Bill Murray), Duke (voice of Jeff Goldblum), and King (voice of Bob Balaban). An adventure ensues. Anderson obviously directs, while also co-writing with the team of Roman Coppola, Kunichi Nomura, and Jason Schwartzman. Also in the voice cast, we have the talents of F. Murray Abraham, Greta Gerwig, Anjelica Huston, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDormand, Fisher Stevens, Tilda Swinton, Akira Takayama, Courtney B. Vance, Ken Watanabe, and more. Alexandre Desplat contributes the score.
Anderson finally won me over here. I previously liked Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Royal Tenenbaums, but not to this extent. To be fair, a lot probably has to do with the fact that I’m an animal lover and a dog owner. Still, this is just an adorable movie. It’s very much Anderson doing his thing, but as a tribute to our four legged friends, he hits on something pretty universal. The bond between man and dog is something that is perfectly handled here, without ever being overblown. If there’s a small complaint here, it’s that the movie could be a bit shorter. Still, this is easily one of the best films of the year so far. Coming from someone who doesn’t usually go for his work, that’s really saying something.
Look for Isle of Dogs to be a prime contender in Best Animated Feature next year at the Oscars. It’s a long shot for the film to score with the Academy in Best Picture, Best Director (for Anderson), or Best Original Screenplay (for Anderson, Coppola, Nomura, and Schwartzman), but below the line there’s possibilities. Animated Feature, obviously, but also Best Production Design, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. More than likely, it’s Animated Feature or bust, where it could be Isle of Dogs going up against The Incredibles 2. That would be a fun match up if it happens, so stay tuned for potentially that, depending on how the year shakes out.
Tomorrow, Anderson fans can rejoice when Isle of Dogs opens in theaters. His work is always an event, but this one is even more so of one. If you’re a dog lover, you are in for a treat. The combination of pet owners, Anderson boosters, and animation buffs can come together and really dive into this one. It’s just a joy to behold. An instant Academy Award contender, it’s also just purely entertaining and will leave you with a huge smile on your face. Regardless of how Oscar takes to it, audiences should really have a ball with this one. Definitely make time for this one. It’s something rather special…
Be sure to check out Isle of Dogs, beginning its theatrical run on Friday!