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Movie Review: Isle of Dogs

Courtesy: Fox Searchlight

Wes Anderson has created yet another work of art with his latest film, “Isle of Dogs.” The stop-motion animation focuses on a story of an extreme idea of near-future Japan, banishing all dogs to a trash island that is located just off the coast. The reason: A dog flu outbreak that is apparently harmful to humans as well. The mayor of Japan, who is portrayed in a dictator-esque light, deports his own dog to the island first. His name is Spots, and he is also the guard dog to the mayor’s nephew. The nephew’s name is Atari (Koyu Rankin) and he’s the mayor’s ward. Atari is 12-years-old and decides to go on a rescue mission to retrieve Spots from the island after all the dogs have been deported.

Atari crash lands on the island and is helped by a ragtag group of five alpha-male dogs who are voiced by a star studded cast. The main character of this group is a stray named Chief (Bryan Cranston). He butts heads with the rest of the pack and is the scrappiest and toughest of them. Chief also resists being friendly with Atari and wants nothing to do with him, but is outvoted by the rest of the pack, who wants to help the boy.

Anderson was inspired by Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, who is known for the films “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro.” They are also imaginative visions of Japan, and are known to be very beautiful.

“Isle of Dogs” has an element that sets it apart from other films. Instead of the Japanese characters speaking in English, or even being subtitled, they speak in Japanese. There is a news character (Frances McDormand) that translates some of what the Japanese characters say. This element combined with the imaginative state of the country has been described as “cringe-worthy” and “culturally insensitive” to many critics. I can see where they’re coming from.

The lack of strong female characters in the film didn’t bother me either. Even if the only one they have is portrayed as a little bit crazy. Exchange student school girl Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) is the only American character in the film and one of only a few English-speaking characters. I’m sure her white girl afro could be interpreted as culturally insensitive as well.

The liberation of the dogs being from a white American girl from Ohio could be viewed as culturally insensitive too. Even with all the cultural negligence, this movie was still “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 90 percent. The artistic hipster style and visual aesthetics of the film give it a much more powerful delivery. The way the dogs fur blows in the breeze, and the fluffy smoke and clouds used throughout the film give it an undeniable “Wow” factor. Plus, who doesn’t love dogs?

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