Isle of Dogs

Out Now On-Demand

The voices of Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Edward Norton star in Wes Anderson's stop-motion animated comedy about a Japanese boy who sets out on an adventure to find his dog.

When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast rubbish-dump called Trash Island, young Atari Kobayashi (newcomer Koyu Rankin) sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

It’s been nine years since Wes Anderson’s sublime adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox, but sadly his long-awaited return to stop-motion animation has been preceded by months of suggestions it’s a product of cultural appropriation if not outright racism. Watching Japan-set near-future kid adventure Isle of Dogs I returned over and over to the topic. Is the film a manifestation of Orientalism? Or loving homage? Insensitive, problematic, patronising? Or sweet, classically idiosyncratic Anderson? The answer hadn’t presented itself by the time the credits rolled (and frankly I’m the least qualified to judge) but the sheer amount of time weighing these questions showed the film had failed to grab me by the scruff of the neck - a more immediate problem in its own right.

Undoubtedly, Isle of Dogs is lovingly crafted - as with Fantastic Mr. Fox, stop-motion animation proves a perfect means of conveying Anderson’s aesthetic. But even admiring, and often adoring, the craftsmanship on display couldn’t overcome its meandering, surprisingly even managing to bore despite the plethora of interesting ideas at play.

The look of the film, coupled with distinctly Anderson dialogue and characterisation, distracts from just how damn bleak much of the subject matter is, with animal cruelty and experimentation taking centre stage along with abuse of kids and canines alike. The citizens of Megasaki City are propagandised into compliant sheep; dogs are penned in a concentration camp - everywhere dystopian power is projected through media manipulation and brute force.

Those welcomely sinister elements are balanced by the likeability of a pack of doggos held together by the force of will displayed by Chief (a suitably determined Bryan Cranston). They team up with Atari (voiced by Koyu Rankin in Japanese - like all characters speaking in their local dialogue, for better or worse), an adventurous boy in search of his four-legged friend who come together as a team, even if these emotional bonds never quite satisfactorily gel.

That’s a big part of the problem. Isle of Dogs doesn’t have anywhere near the heart of Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s lovely to look at, but that’s clearly not nearly enough when you find yourself wondering when - rather than how - it’s all going to wrap up.

Variety (USA)


Say "Isle of Dogs" fast and it comes out sounding an awful lot like "I Love Dogs" - which makes sense, since that's pretty much the chief takeaway from Wes Anderson's delightful new animated feature.

Screen International


Anderson's trademark tongue-in-cheek humour and deadpan quips are there to ease the way, which seem more fluidly delivered by puppets than in Anderson's live-action fare.

The Guardian (UK)


This hugely enjoyable package shows an indefatigably fertile imagination letting rip in inimitable style - and packing an eco-themed, antibigotry message as well.

The Times (UK)


Don't let the fluffy faces fool you. Wes Anderson's latest animation delivers talking dogs and snicker-inducing scenarios. But it's also bleak and frequently unsettling, a dazzling family movie with the darkest of hearts.

Hollywood Reporter


The unique charm of Isle of Dogs is its bottomless vault of curios, its sly humour, playful graphic inserts and dexterous narrative detours.

The Telegraph (UK)


This is by some measure Anderson's weirdest concoction ever, in all sorts of good ways. And it probably counts as his most daring, too.

The Independent (UK)


Anderson is clearly a dog lover himself and his film is bound to appeal to anyone who shares his passion. All in all, the film is quite a treat. (Graeme Tuckett)


If you've ever liked Wes Anderson before, it will quite probably be one of your favourite and best-remembered films of 2018.

So cool

Wes Anderson always delivers


Its beautiful, charming and full of heart.