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.
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.
Image: Handsome pupper in Isle of Dogs
This movie is playing all around this area.
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