|Directed by||:||Wes Anderson||Produced by||:||Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin||Screenplay by||:||Wes Anderson||Story by||:||Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola||Starring||:||Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum||Cinematography||:||Tristan Oliver||Production company||:||Indian Paintbrush, American Empirical|
Isle of Dogs Review: Lots of Bark, Little Bite
As fate would have it, the Berlin Film Festival opened one day too late. You can hardly fault the festival programmers for kicking things off February 15 with Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson’s rollicking and ramshackle shaggy-dog adventure—a perfect opening-night film if ever there was one. But the film would have been a natural fit for a Valentine’s Day debut—because for all of its fastidiously curated details and meticulous stop-motion compositions, Isle of Dogs is nothing if not a big, wet kiss to Japanese pop culture, to the director’s seasoned band of collaborators, and above all else to man’s best friend. (For further proof of its Valentine’s compatibility, say the title three times fast.)
Like a firm and knowing master, Anderson’s second animated offering (after 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox) trains you in how to watch it right from the get-go, opening on a lumbering, myth-building prologue that’s as convoluted as it is visually ravishing. That heavy burst of exposition has little to bear on the canine shenanigans that follow—another clue not to take any of this either literally or figuratively. Instead, take it aesthetically, and enjoy the ride.
On that front, you’re in the best possible hands. There’s oh-so-much to take in here that the film plays like a minute-to-minute choose your own adventure. Will you marvel at the stylish mash-up of 17th-century woodblocks with sleek 1960s futurism? Will you play “spot the reference,” delighting at winks to Akira Kurosawa, Hayao Miyazaki, and B-movie maestro Seijun Suzuki? Or will you focus entirely on the marionettes’ expressive eyes, and wonder how in the world this team of animators managed to create such lifelike tears?