July 9, 2018  (Web Review)

Isle of Dogs

Fox, 102 min., PG-13, DVD: $29.98, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $34.99, July 17

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

From the fertile imagination of filmmaker Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Grand Budapest Hotel) comes this timely, idiosyncratic, stop-motion animated tale of a youngster looking for his lost companion. Set in the Japanese archipelago in the near future, this dystopian fable, narrated by Courtney B. Vance, revolves around Atari Kobayashi (voiced by Koyu Rankin), whose dog Spots (Liev Schreiber) is banished when Megasaki City’s cat-loving, dog-despising Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) decrees that all canines must be exiled to an island previously used for trash disposal, following an outbreak of a type of flu known as Snout Fever. Hijacking a small aircraft, intrepid, 12-year-old Atari, the adopted nephew of corrupt Kobayashi, crash-lands on Trash Island, determined to rescue his beloved Spots. Here, he runs into a bickering pack of banished pets: Boss (Bill Murray), Rex (Edward Norton), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and King (Bob Balaban)—as well as Chief (Bryan Cranston), a gruff, battle-hardened stray; silky former show dog Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson); and TV-loving, psychic pug Oracle (Tilda Swinton). The dogs speak English and the people speak Japanese, although a running joke involving a translator (Frances McDormand) grows rather tedious, as does a conspiracy subplot about Tracy (Greta Gerwig), a feisty foreign exchange student. But these are minor quibbles in this visually exquisite tale backed by an evocative soundtrack from Alexandre Desplat. Recommended. (S. Granger)