Year Released: 2018
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Crantson, Koya Rankin, Edward Norton, Live Schreiber, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum
(PG-13, 101 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Animation, Comedy
“You're talking like a bunch of housebroken... pets.” –Chief
Say the title fast three times. What do you get? “I Love Dogs.” And what person in their right mind doesn’t? No wonder adults and children are flocking to this latest Wes Anderson package.
Now a little background:
This stop-motion animated adventure comedy was written and directed by Wes Anderson. The story is set in a dystopian future Japan and follows 12-year-old Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura). When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber).
There, Atari receives help from some of the local dogs, Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum) and Boss (Bill Murray), who are fed up with their isolated existence and decide to protect Atari from the Japanese authorities who have come after him.
Of course, this being Wes Anderson, who helped write as well as direct, you know things are going to be a little different. For instance, the dogs all have very American one syllable names, except for Nutmeg (Scarlett Johannson), the illusive female show dog they all worship from a distance. I guess her show dog chops earn her the second syllable. And while the dogs speak Americanized English, all the Japanese characters speak Japanese, which is generally not translated on screen.
But we all know Wes Anderson’s trademark, as he has shown us before. What we said about Moonrise Kingdom could also be said about his latest film:
Deadpan, quirky, and almost a little too stylized for its own good, this tale of love and loneliness breaks through all those trappings because it really does penetrate the human heart.
While Director Wes Anderson treats his characters with his usual bemused detachment, they somehow refuse to remain the pawns he had so carefully laid on his cinematic chessboard.
And it has much of the same strange magic of 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, as different Drummer then observed:
This quirky film dances into our spring just when we need some relief from the unrelenting dank weather, cinematic and otherwise. –Different Drummer
As always, Anderson is meticulous in his details, especially the Stop-Motion Animation:
Stop-motion animation can be thought of as just a series of still photographs. Objects or puppets are moved and filmed frame by frame to simulate movement. Films like the original King Kong and Star Wars made heavy use of stop motion animation using miniatures and puppets. This was the only way to bring objects that cannot move by themselves to life on screen. (Techopedia)
Computer Generated Imagery has replaced this technique, but the realistic effects of the stop motion technique make it stand out from its inferior and overused digital cousin. But it does take time, as Jeff Goldblum noted in an interview. While all the lines from his character Boss could be recorded in a few hours, the animators worked for three years bringing the dogs to life on the screen.
It is almost like the meticulous work of Disney studios, when cartoonist Walt Disney drew every aspect of Mickey Mouse. And the suggestion of a romance between Chief, the stray, and Nutmeg, the female show dog is reminiscent of one of my favorite Disney animations, Lady and the Tramp.
Anderson also has a lot of fun with the perceived status differences between the once coddled household pets and Chief’s loner/stray defiance.
Rex: I used to sleep on a lamb's wool beanbag next to an electric space heater. That's my territory, I'm an *indoor* dog.
King: I starred in twenty-two consecutive Doggy Chow commercials. Look at me now, I couldn't land an audition.
Boss: I was the lead mascot for an undefeated high school baseball team. I lost all my spirit, I'm depressing.
Duke: I only ask for what I've always had, a balanced diet, regular grooming, and a general physical once a year.
Chief: You're talking like a bunch of housebroken... pets.
Rex: You don't understand. Uh, how could you, I mean you're a...
Chief: Go ahead say it. I'm a stray, yeah.
Sadly, however, too many critics have forgotten how to have a little fun and enjoy what is up there on the screen. They seem to live in a self-imposed bubble of political correctness and over-analysis.
Here are a few samples of the more excessive navel gazing:
But when you have these dogs voiced by white actors banished to a trash island because the Japanese mayor wants to see the species eradicated; there’s a troublesome lack of cultural awareness about how that plays out with the history of Americans interning Japanese during World War II out of fear and racism… I'm actually surprised cat lovers haven't come out and condemned the film for it negative portrayal of felines. –Beth Accomando
I was surprised at…how culturally relevant it is now with anti-fear mongering and anti-bigotry and pro-student uprising and how it indicts a corrupt political faction that will deny science for the purposes of their own nefarious profit-making. –Jeff Goldblum
To begin with, the strangest aspect of Isle of Dogs is that the dogs all speak American English (and are voiced by white American and British actors), while the humans for the most part speak Japanese. While the human characters have appropriately Japanese sounding names, the dogs have American names like Spot, Chief, Rex, and Duke. Their names are stamped on military-style dog tags, and they read like monosyllabic military call signs.
This is the first of many overt clues that these dogs are not actually Japanese, but rather represent American soldiers stationed in Japan. Brody notes that the dogs are depicted as a “quasi-military organization,” but does not close the loop on them being American. We learn that Spot (who serves a plot function here similar to Private Ryan in Saving Private Ryan) was assigned by an elder Japanese statesman to protect his Japanese master, the young Atari, after a traumatic accident left his parents dead. This parallels the American justification for stationing troops in Japan since the end of World War II, ostensibly to guarantee the security of their host country, as a dog would its master. –Teen Sheng
Oh, come on. Take some advice from my youngest grandson, nine-year-old Jack, who loved the movie and resisted Memaw’s prodding to explain why.
“Not as good as Fantastic Mr. Fox, though” he quipped as we left the theater. You’d almost think he intuitively knew Wes Anderson directed them both. I guess there is hope for a next generation of movie critics if I ever pass the torch.
Film-Loving Foodie: I will hand it off to 2 Geeks Who Eat and their wonderful forward to their recipe.
You may not know it by our posts, but we are parents. Our child is a 5-year-old fur baby named Mimi. While Mimi gets to sample a fair amount of our Geeks Who Eat recipes, she has never had one made especially for her. When we were asked to create a recipe for Isle of Dogs we knew this was our chance! Therefore, here is Mimi’s very own dish, Onigiri Dog Treats!
When coming up with this recipe we knew from the start we didn’t want to create a standard Japanese inspired dish. Instead, we would take inspiration from the dogs of the film. Rather than creating a Japanese recipe, we created dog treats with chicken and brown rice. These dog treats ended up being inspired by the Japanese snack, onigiri! Our Onigiri Dog Treats are super easy and your dog is going to love them!
Japanese Dog Treats
Yield: 12-18 Treats
6 oz Chicken Thigh, cooked and chopped
1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 cup cooked Brown Rice
2 1/2 cups Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
12-18 Nori strips cut 3 inches long by 1 inch wide (this will depend on how many treats you make)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine chicken, rice and chicken stock in a blender.
Blend until well combined.
In a bowl combine the flour, 1 egg, and salt.
Add the chicken mixture and stir until clumpy.
Flour your work surface, then kneed your dough until well combined.
Roll out your dough until 1/4 inch thick.
Using a triangle shaped cookie cutter, cut out the treats and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Wrap the botton of your treat with a piece of nori using a small bit of water to secure.
Using the other egg, create an egg wash.
Brush the top of your treat with a light coat.
Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes.
Let cool and share with your favorite pup!