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Isle Of Dogs • Truth Or Dare

April 19, 2018

Isle of Dogs (** ½) PG-13

It goes without saying that there are two things that will greatly enhance one’s appreciation of the animated film Isle of Dogs. Those two things are a love and affection for the director of the film, Wes Anderson, and, of course, dogs. Being that I’ve never been a fan of Anderson and his approach to filmmaking and that I’m more partial to felines than dogs, I guess my tepid response to Isle of Dogs shouldn’t be a total surprise. What did surprise me, however, was that I actually enjoyed the first half of the director’s latest effort to a large enough degree, probably more so than anything I’ve experienced in any of his previous work. Considering my general disdain for and inability to get in synch with Anderson’s style of filmmaking, that, in and of itself, is a major feat.

The first half of Isle of Dogs is pretty plot centric and does a good job establishing the basic premise. Here we have a futuristic world wherein a dog flu has threatened to extinguish the species. As a result, all dogs have been banished to their own separate island where they’re left to their own devices in terms of maintaining food and shelter. This section of the film works well and is greatly benefitted by the imaginative touches that are used to make this world come to life. As an aside, I’ll also mention that this is a film for adults and parents should be warned that, although an animated film and not overtly violent, there are disturbing images to which small, dog loving children shouldn’t be privy.

Handsome pupper in Isle of Dogs

The trouble here, as in past films in the Wes Anderson filmography, is that Anderson can’t seem to leave well enough alone after successfully establishing a satisfactory first half. The film not surprisingly goes off in roughly a half dozen different directions during its final half. It finally reaches a point where you either make the effort to continue to follow along or simply give up. I didn’t quite entirely opt for the latter route but there were certainly times when I came close.

The problem I’ve always had with Anderson is that he seems to have an inability to differentiate between funny and quirky. You always get the sense that there are a dozen of inside jokes thrown into the mix for no other reason than for Anderson to amuse himself and his friends. You can almost visualize them congratulating themselves on how clever they are to slip them past a mainstream audience and into a studio financed film. There is always a sense of whimsy at play but never do I find myself laughing out loud at his films. Isle of Dogs, although masterfully animated, wonderfully voiced by A list talent and not without its charms, is no different in that respect. 

Truth or Dare (**) PG-13

Truth or Dare is the latest entry from the folks at horror outlet Blumhouse Productions, an outfit whose creative output runs the gamut from great (Get Out) to mediocre and all the way down the chart to just plain awful (Ouija). Truth or Dare isn’t likely to be confused with the most rewarding endeavors from the production house. In fact, it comes uncomfortably close to landing at the bottom of the heap compared to the more enjoyable entries unleashed by Blumhouse. It’s an indistinguishable endeavor that seems like it’s running on auto pilot for most of its running time. It’s pretty obvious that more thought was spent on the novelty of releasing this film on an actual calendar date of Friday the 13th than any plot points contained therein.  

Several college kids head south of the border for a weekend of, well, whatever it is that poorly written characters do in these sorts of movies. In the case of the scenario found here, one of the girls in the group strikes up a conversation with a hunky young dude who invites her and the rest of the gang to spend the night in an abandoned castle. Once they arrive they quickly discover they were lured there by their new ‘friend’ in an effort to rid himself of a curse that’s been haunting him. The only way to free himself is to get his new acquaintances to participate in a real life version of the game of the film’s title. Trouble is that the penalty that comes with someone not accepting your dare is a quick and certain death. Yep, the stakes are just a wee bit higher here.    

Scene from Truth or Dare 

Some of the truths and dares that the kids are forced to participate in are a bit inventive but the payoffs are hardly ever as good as the setup. One example would be a sequence where one of the kids, who is secretly gay, must confess his secret to his homophobic father. Instead of this leading to an interesting exchange between father and son, the father readily accepts the son’s confession and the son lives to see another day. One can only contemplate the missed opportunities and there are many of them littered about the film.   

One other thing that must be noted is how the PG-13 rating of the film really blunts the overall impact of things. This is a film that most certainly would have benefitted from a little more explicitness in terms of its depiction of the horror the film’s characters must endure. Then again, I guess this isn’t the kind of thing that’s meant to be scrutinized that closely. It’s an assembly line product made for audiences who have yet to experience a truly great horror film. It’s hard to compare when you have no yardstick by which to measure such things. My advice is to skip this and revisit Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead.

Both movies are playing all around this area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at



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