ISLE OF DOGS — Review by Susan Granger

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isle of dogs posterFrom the fertile imagination of filmmaker Wes Anderson comes this unique, stop-motion animated tale of a youngster looking for his lost companion, featuring the distinctive voices of Anderson’s regular repertory company. Set in the Japanese Archipelago in the near future, this dystopian fable, narrated by Courtney B. Vance, revolves around Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), whose bodyguard dog, Spots (Liev Schreiber), is banished when Megasaki City’s cat-loving, dog-despising Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) decrees that, following an outbreak of a type of flu known as Snout Fever, all canines must be exiled to an island previously used for trash disposal. Continue reading…

Hijacking a small aircraft, intrepid, 12 year-old Atari, the adopted nephew of corrupt Mayor Kobayashi, crash-lands on Trash Island’s bleak wasteland, determined to rescue his beloved Spots. Instead, he runs into a bickering pack of banished pets.

There’s Boss (Bill Murray), Rex (Edward Norton), Duke (Jeff Goldblum) and King (Bob Balaban), along with Chief (Bryan Cranston), a gruff, battle-hardened stray; a silky former show dog, Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson); and a TV-loving, psychic pug (Tilda Swinton).

The unconventional, original sci-fi screenplay is by Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura, who were obviously inspired by the stylistic films of Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Kurosawa.

With the dogs speaking English and the people speaking Japanese, it’s exquisitely depicted in visual detail by the inventive ‘puppet’ artists at Twentieth Century Fox Animation with evocative music by Alexandre Desplat.

Unfortunately, the running joke involving a translator (Frances McDormand) grows tedious, as does a conspiracy subplot, encompassing a feisty foreign exchange student, Tracy (Greta Gerwig), while Yoko Ono’s ‘scientist’ adds nothing and is ultimately distracting.

FYI: It’s the longest stop-motion film ever, beating out “Coraline” by two minutes.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 of 10, “Isle of Dogs” is an admirably idiosyncratic 8 – thanks to its timely, politically provocative, fascistic undertones.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.