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‘Isle of Dogs’ is a blue-ribbon movie (review)

Michael Heaton, The Plain DealerApril 6, 2018

‘Isle of Dogs’ is a blue-ribbon movie (review)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- “Isle of Dogs” is director Wes Anderson at his quirky best.

This is his ninth feature film and second using stop-motion animation. The first animated film he did was “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” in 2009, starring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray.

This time out, he has a whole army of famous voices. The dogs alone in the cast are voiced by Murray, Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand and Harvey Keitel. Greta Gerwig plays an American exchange student living in Japan.

The movie takes place in Japan in a place called Megasaki City. The Japanese characters speak Japanese with subtitles. The dogs speak English.

Due to a questionable outbreak of canine flu, Mayor Kobayashi (a cat lover) has banished all dogs in the city to Trash Island, a large landfill surrounded by water.

Enter Atari, voiced by Koyu Rankin, a 12-year-old boy and ward of Mayor Kobayashi. He has commandeered a small plane and flown to Trash Island to find and retrieve his beloved dog, Spots. He teams up with a ragtag band of dogs (the aforementioned celebs), who help him search for Spots.

Back on the mainland, a scientist sympathetic to dogs is working diligently on a cure for canine flu.

The dog dialogue is often droll and hilarious. Anderson has a real gift for the oddball turn of phrase and the stand-alone comment that always gets a laugh. Anthropomorphic animals are always funny, and talking dogs are funnier than most other species.

“Isle of Dogs” isn’t quite as tight storywise or as clever as “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.” But then Anderson is no Roald Dahl, who wrote the source material for “Mr. Fox.” This movie’s only fault is that it seems a tad long at a brief 101 minutes.

But there are lots of laughs, large and small, to be had in this charming gem of a movie.


Isle of Dogs

Who: With the voices of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Greta Gerwig, Liev Schreiber and Yoko Ono. Directed by Wes Anderson. 

Rated: PG-13.

Running time: 101 minutes.

When: Opens Friday, April 6.

Where: Area theaters.

Grade: A+

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