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Super furry animals in Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson’s story of a dastardly plan to send a city’s dogs into exile is cute, but it’s not for young children

29 March, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs

ISLE OF DOGS
Directed by Wes Anderson
Certificate PG
☆☆☆

IF you have enjoyed Wes Anderson’s previous films – and you’d have to be fairly sour in character not to have smiled at Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums – then you’ll have some idea what to expect from his latest offering, and won’t be disappointed.

To be able to create such a style of your own is an achievement – but it also can lock a filmmaker into making something that is expected to fit in with your oeuvre. Anderson tells stories of geeky heroes, off-beat adventures and all set in worlds of surreal design. Isle of Dogs is no different – it is pretty spectacular to look at, with a gang that fit his made-to-measure idea of what goodies look like.

Atari Kobayashi is the 12-year-old ward of the megalomanic, dog-hating mayor of Megasaki City. The mayor has launched a dastardly plan to send the dogs of the city into exile – they are suffering from a canine flu called Snout Fever and so he cites public health as the reason.

The deserted isle, packed full of trash, is doggie hell – from being man’s best friend they are now tick-ridden scavengers: and Atari’s pet/bodyguard Spots has been banished there, too. Atari sets off on a daring rescue mission, flying a small plane to the wasteland, and after crashing among the refuse setting out on a quest to be reunited with his four-legged friend.

Meanwhile, a school newspaper reporter thinks there is something distinctly fishy about the dog flu epidemic, believing that it has to do with a kindly scientist who was standing for election against the mayor.

Anderson is goes back here to the same animation techniques that created Fantastic Mr Fox and it is a theatrical delight. The stop-motion technique – shot at the Three Mills Studios in east London – is stunning, textured, mesmerising. Gadgets abound, Trash Island is a brilliantly rendered landscape that sadly feels only too real, with such hideous facts as the Pacific Ocean’s plastic crisis, the Fukushima leaks, and other environmental disasters that make this future something set very much in the here and now.

Anderson has packed the story with great actors to voice it, showing the pull he has: the cast includes Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber and Tilda Swinton, who bring life and humour to the puppetry. Yoko Ono is also roped in to offer an odd, voiced cameo.

It is cute, but not a children’s film – under-10s will find elements fairly scary with the growls, yelps and general disease-ridden plight of the heroes an uncomfortable scenario if you’re keen on wagging tails.

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