Who Let the Dogs Out?: ‘Isle of Dogs’ continues Anderson’s stop motion journey

When it comes to Wes Anderson, viewers come for his mastery of cinematography and aesthetics, but they stay for his realistic characters and entertaining yet heartwarming storylines. His much anticipated film “Isle of Dogs” is no exception. 

“Isle of Dogs” is Wes Anderson’s newest stylistic and quirky masterpiece, featuring a pack of scrappy dogs led by Chief (Bryan Cranston) and a resilient boy (Koyu Rankin) on a quest to rescue his dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber). 

The film’s North American premiere took place at the Paramount Theater on Saturday; it was the closing night film of the South by Southwest Film Festival. Hordes of dedicated Anderson fans lined the sidewalks, hoping to have the privilege of watching the film first. For this reporter, five hours flew by quicker than expected and were well worth it in the end. 

Once inside the theater, the audience buzzed in anticipation of the long-awaited film; the energy of 1100 Anderson fans was palpable. 

Anderson as well as some of the cast and crew appeared to introduce the film, causing even more excitement among the eager audience. Those present included producer Jeremy Dawson, Bill Murray (Boss), Jeff Goldblum (Duke), Bob Balaban (King) and Kunichi Nomura, who assisted with the story and gave his voice to the character of Mayor Kobayashi. 

The story follows the dogs and people of Megasaki, Japan, where dog flu runs rampant causing the mayor to exile all dogs to a nearby island referred to as “Trash Island.” The first of these dogs is Spots, who serves as guard dog for Mayor Kobayashi’s 12-year-old ward Atari. Devastated yet determined to reclaim his beloved companion, Atari commandeers a small plane and crash-lands on Trash Island, where he makes the acquaintance of a pack of dogs led by Chief. The dogs help Atari reunite with Spots while back in Megasaki, foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) sets out to uncover the corruption in the city’s government.

The film was well-executed in nearly every aspect that can be examined. Just as expected, Anderson packed the mise-en-scene of the film with an incredible amount of detail. 

The stop-motion animators captured the movement of the dogs and characters of the world flawlessly, and the sets brought the Megasaki and Trash Island to life. The perfectly complementary music was composed by Academy Award winner Alexandre Desplat, who has worked on “The Shape of Water” and Anderson’s last film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” 

And of course, the star-studded cast gave humorous and candid performances. One couldn’t help but feel personally invested in Atari’s journey to save his dog or Tracy’s vendetta against the dog-hating government of Megasaki. 

The credits brought about cheers and thunderous clapping as well as a standing ovation, making it clear that the audience enjoyed the film. “Isle of Dogs” was so popular among the viewers that it went on to win the SXSW Audience Award. 

“Isle of Dogs” is a thrilling and emotional journey that cannot be missed. The film comes to theaters across America March 23.