In many ways, animation is the perfect form for Wes Anderson. His other films have that feel, like they’ve been made with the disciplines of animation in mind - the sets, the way the characters talk, the camera moves, the lighting. His previous stop-motion effort, Fantastic Mr Fox, brought much-loved characters wonderfully to life but perhaps lacked a little warmth. Here we are immersed again into the plight of maligned animals as a young boy joins a pack of wild dogs to find his beloved former pet, Spots, since all dogs have been banished from the Japanese future city of Megasaki by an evil Mayor to Trash Island, following an outbreak of canine flu.
What makes this film superior to Fantastic Mr Fox, and arguably all of his live action work, is the amount of love you get from Anderson in Isle of Dogs. More of a collection of love letters than a single one, the film oozes warmth for so many things, leaving you grinning like a soppy pup all the way though and sending you on your way all fuzzy and beaming.
Anderson’s love of Japanese culture, historical and popular, is evident in every frame. His delight in the characters and performances shines through so much that you care deeply for this bunch of scabby mutts. Clearly he adores the process and experience of stop-motion - there are tiny moments that will make your grin wrap half way around your face, and it takes more than one viewing to get them all. But most of all, for anyone who has ever loved a dog, that devoted relationship comes across so strongly that this film would bring a tear to a glass eye. You'd have to be pretty mean spirited not to be moved.
Of course, on Blu-ray it looks astonishingly beautiful, and there’s great pleasure to be had in watching some sequences several times to take it all in. Extras include a few short documentaries, including an engaging piece on the animators and their craft and a fascinating look at the sets. For once, there’s a stills gallery that’s worth looking at, including shots of the cast posing with their puppet counterparts.
Talking of the cast, the usual Anderson favourites crop up in the interviews. There’s regulars like Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, and Tilda Swinton, with newcomers to the Anderson universe including Scarlett Johansson and Bryan Cranston. Delightfully, these cast interviews are also animated. It’s a lovely touch and shows the meticulous care with which this film was made.
It just might be Anderson’s best.
ISLE OF DOGS / DIRECTOR: WES ANDERSON / SCREENPLAY: WES ANDERSON, ROMAN COPPOLA / STARRING: BRYAN CRANSTON, KOYU RANKIN, EDWARD NORTON, BOB BALABAN, BILL MURRAY, JEFF GOLDBLUM / CERT: PG / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW