Isle of Dogs Movie Review
Woof, said Wes Anderson as he made his quirky Wes Anderson-styled stop-motion comedy Isle of Dogs. Meh, said I, Erik Samdahl, who finally watched the quirky Wes Anderson-styled stop-motion comedy Isle of Dogs only to find, despite rave reviews and much anticipation, that it’s a great short film stretched to almost two hours.
The elaborately creative film—creativity has never been Anderson’s issue—is set in an alternative Japan where the dog-hating prime minister has banned all dogs to Trash Island and plans to do even worse things. His ward, Atari Kobayashi, escapes from the mainland and teams with a band of dogs to find his own pet Spots, the first to be sent to exile long ago.
Similar to Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox for all the obvious reasons, Isle of Dogs presents an interesting set of characters and a uniquely weird plot that only Anderson could conceive. Visually, the film is fantastic and entrancing, beautifully detailed and cleverly animated. The writing, too, is strong, Anderson fully realizing a strange, dystopian world full of imaginative moments and unexpected plot developments.
Isle of Dogs works extremely well for a while due to these factors, but as Anderson barrels towards the finale it all begins to feel a bit much, or a bit little, as the movie loses steam. It’s never dull, but its engagement factor dwindles until, suddenly, I realized I was only half-paying attention, still interested in the overarching machinations of the story but no longer drawn into Anderson’s world, no longer caring about the fine detail that should be the film’s strongest selling point.
That’s because, as a concept, Isle of Dogs is great, but as a feature-length story it needs the true Wes Anderson faithful (whereas I am a fair weather fan, a proponent of his best films and an eye-roller at his others) to see it through. It’s clever, yes, and well-written, yes, but when it comes to Wes Anderson movies, a little Anderson goes a long way, and a lot of Anderson is too much.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.