Did you hear the rumour about Wes Anderson taking another stab at making a stop-motion animated film despite the disappointing box-office returns of 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox? Well it’s rumour no more as the eclectic director has pulled it off once more and has delivered a miraculous film that brings all of his eccentricities into a tale of one boy and his dog.
Yes, man’s best friend is the subject of his latest endeavour which sees canines outlawed in Japan as fear grips the nation. All dogs are rounded up and sent off to an island off the coast, one usually utilised for the disposal of the mountains of waste from the surroundings vicinity. Atari (Rankin), devastated at being separated from his beloved friend Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber) sets off to find him amongst the rubble with the help of a ragtag group of dogs, including Chief (Cranston), Rex (Norton), Boss (Murray) and Duke (Goldblum).
As you may probably have guessed going in to any Wes Anderson playground means that the design on all fronts is immaculate and every speck of Isle of Dogs looks absolutely wonderful down to the last fake dog hair. Typically shot with same precision and fluidity, Anderson has excelled himself once again and created a sumptuous looking film filled with splendour and vitality, despite the drabness of the island itself, with the Tokyo landscapes ushering in a technicolour haven that’s pure magic.
The story, too, is just as wonderful and mixes humour, warmth and “serious” into a delicious pot of gold that moves through the gears, and timeframes so majestically, helped along its merry way by its outstanding vocal performances across the board. Cranston is the stand-out in the lead doggy role that brings all of the actor’s strengths to the fore, whilst Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum provide the wry sarcastic notes and both do so well with Edward Norton, Bob Balaban and Tilda Swinton also having a ball. Special mention too to Koyu Rankin, who excels as the young boy desperately trying to be reunited with his best friend no matter how dangerous.
While fans of Anderson’s may miss the sardonic sensibilities of some of his “human” work, rest assured that the director is at the top of his game here and has once again delivered a cornucopia of wonder that’s as funny as it is heartfelt and one that will surely be part of many Best of the Year lists come January.