Isle of Dogs, the newest stop-motion film from director Wes Anderson, puts a compellingly odd twist on the classic theme of the relationship between humans and their best friend. Set in a near-future Japan, the film’s plot is set off by an outbreak of canine flu, which leads the dictatorial Mayor Kobayashi to banish all dogs to “trash island.” In a flare of rebellion, the mayor’s young nephew, Atari, flies to the island in search of his lost dog, Spots, and is taken in by a ragtag group of dogs. The odyssey that follows, full of well-timed and fresh humor and raked with bits of sorrow and tragedy, speaks to the value of the human-canine connection and the importance of empathy.
That said, there has been some criticism concerning the portrayal of Japanese culture by a white director, because, as can be seen in the movie’s various references to drums, gongs, sumo wrestling, sushi and wasabi, it might be considered largely stereotypical. There also is the fact that one of the other main protagonists, a foreign exchange student from Ohio named Tracy Walker, is the one who ultimately saves the day with her actions against animal cruelty. This “white savior” narrative is something overused in cinema already, leading some people to question why a movie taking place in Japan still feels the need to have a white girl fly in and save the day.
All of this aside, the stop-motion animation is beautiful, the jokes are funny and refreshing, and the sentiments are relatable and truthful. Appreciate Isle of Dogs for what it is: a well-done, well-intentioned movie that likely will appeal to viewers of all ages. All the way down to the homophone in the title (Isle of Dogs — I love dogs), this movie is adorable, heartwarming and worth the watch.
Isle of Dogs runs 101 minutes and is rated PG-13. It is playing at the Violet Crown Cinema Santa Fe, Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14 and the Center for Contemporary Arts.
Natalia Payne is a freshman at Santa Fe High. Contact her at email@example.com.