American films

Isle of Dogs film review: Wes Anderson’s second stop-motion animation is his quirkiest outing to date

Featuring the voices of Bill Murray, Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson and Koyu Rankin, Wes Anderson’s film of a gang of dogs out to help a young boy find his own pet is beautifully crafted, hilariously funny and utterly unique

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 1:00pm

4/5 stars

Wes Anderson returns with the quirkiest film of his career, which is saying something when you consider this is the director behind Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

An animated film with political undertones, a love of Akira Kurosawa and a fetish for all things canine, Isle of Dogs begins when the cat-loving mayor of the fictional dystopia Megasaki City reacts to the spread of a virus, banishing all dogs to a refuse-infested island off the coast of Japan.

Foraging on scraps and fighting with other pups that roam this so-called Trash Island, our hero pooches include baseball mascot Boss (voiced by Anderson’s own mascot Bill Murray), rough ‘n’ ready stray Chief (Bryan Cranston) and trick-turning show dog Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson).

With stop-motion animation Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson may have made his most political film yet

When Atari (Koyu Rankin), the young ward of the mayor, comes looking for his own dog – the first pet to have been shipped away – this gang decide to journey across the island and escape with him back to Megasaki.

Like Anderson’s earlier stop-motion animated film – the Roald Dahl adaptation Fantastic Mr. Fox – the craftsmanship and tangible nature of the world on show is superlative, with the filmmaker again working with the animators at British company 3 Mills Studios.

Despite the breathless pace of it all, it’s flush with detail, right down to the fleas that weave in and out of the dogs’ fur. Every frame, every reference, has been thought through with loving care.

As is common for Anderson, there is a prologue, chapters and a voice-over, lending the film a storybook quality, but it all coalesces into something utterly unique. Co-written with Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura, this may be Anderson’s riff on Kurosawa’s urban thrillers High and Low and Stray Dog – but it is also his funniest film.

Film review: a trip down memory lane via The Grand Budapest Hotel

With Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig and Frances McDormand also on vocal duties, Isle of Dogs is as daft as it is deft. Even cat lovers will dig it.

Isle of Dogs opens on April 19

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook