“Isle of Dogs” has a lot not going for it:
stop-action animation that seems almost amateurish compared to
recent advances in computer graphic imaging.
A lack of likeable human characters.
A pack of dogs wth human voices that don't distinguish themselves
enough from each other for us to appreciate the difference in character
humor set in Japanese anime context, which is strange even by Wes Anderson
standards. But, “Isle of
Dogs” has one big thing going for it:
the emotional connection with all the viewers who are dog lovers.
And that constitutes a legion of constituents.
The roots of the controversy, explains the preamble, go way back in
Japanese folklore. But what
was long ago a canine dominance eventually settled into the domestication
and proliferation of today. Enter
the tyrannical despot, Mayor Kobayashi (draw your own political
conclusions), a cat lover, who orders all dog banned to a desert island,
where they suffer terrible diseases, not to mention human neglect., and
devolve into snarling packs fighting for food scraps.
This kind of abrupt cruelty is opposed by certain peace-loving
factions, who want to work harder to develop the serum that will cure the
dog diseases. And there's even
student-led demonstrations, headed by an American exchange student, no
less, who is eventually ordered to be deported for her troubles.
But not even the great and powerful Mayor Kabayashi can control his
ward, his 12-year-old nephew, Atari, who travels to the Trash Island in
search of his own dog, despite the Mayor's attempts to prevent him.
A small pack of friendly dogs, who are impressed by Atari's
determination, decide they want to help in the rescue attempt.
Along the way, we have the hint of a dog romance, and some offbeat
humor, to try to add some bouyancy to this rather dark cartoon epic.
Yes, there will probably be a “cult” following, mostly among
adults, but it's not likely to become a children's classic like a Disney
offering. It just might,
however, tap into your emotional connection with dogs, especially if
you've also experienced the urge to “rescue.”