isle_of_dogsIsle of Dogs. Is it named after an area in That London? You’d think so. Otherwise, it would probably be called Island of Dogs, given that the location in the movie is called Trash Island and not Trash Isle. But there doesn’t seem to be any point in that nod to the Docklands. There’s nothing Cockney in this whatsoever. So maybe it is just coincidence. Aye. These are the thoughts that go through my mind. Inconsequential. Forgettable. Almost not worth mentioning.

So. The movie, Isle of Dogs, then.

The latest offering from Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, The Royal Tenenbaums) is set in a near-future Japan where the authoritarian Mayor Kobayashi — not to be mistaken for the porcelain manufacturer in The Usual Suspects — exploits a dog flu epidemic to banish all dogs to from the city of Megasaki to Trash Island. Because he really, really, hates dogs. The first pooch to be dispatched is Spots, friend and protector of Atari Kobayashi, young ward of the Mayor. Atari is none too taken by these events and so nicks a plane and flies to Trash Island (see, told you) to get his dog back. But the island (not isle) is now residence to hundreds of dogs, all of whom are sick, most of whom are hungry, and not all of them are prepared to give Atari a warm welcome to their new (smelly) home.

The stop-motion animation has a slightly jerky feel to it, as though every second frame has been removed but, if anything, it works better because of it. While it would appear each scene has been carefully structured, and there are many scenes that are simply gorgeous, there are a number where the composition is a little weird; heads of speaking characters appearing at the very bottom of the frame, f’rinstance. I’m sure it’s deliberate. I just can’t think why, and it’s distracting. On the flip side, the fight scenes that are a mixture of clouds and limbs are an absolute delight.

It’s an embarrassment of riches in terms of voice talent. Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, and, surprisingly, Yoko Ono (playing a character credited as Assistant Scientist Yoko Ono) all make the requisite noises with their mouths and tongues to a very high standard, delivering the lines with a deadpan detachment that injects a little humor into the most mundane of situations.

Aside from an oddly slimline storyline of One Boy and His Dog, I’m not sure if I was impressed by the representation of Japanese culture, or by Wes Anderson’s best guess at representation of Japanese culture, and the character who seems most in tune with the corruption of the Kobayashi political class is, of course, American. From Ohio, to be exact.

But perhaps the biggest — and unforgivable — letdown is that this One Boy and His Dog movie never really threatens to trouble the emotions and that it fails to linger much in the mind beyond the walk back to the car. For all the crying the characters did, there was never the threat of that happening in real life.

Inconsequential. Forgettable. Almost not worth mentioning.

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