In Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs, the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki is suffering from a dog flu epidemic. Despite research into a cure being well underway, the new mayor, Kobayashi, orders that the city’s entire canine population be deported to the nearby Trash Island, starting with his ward’s own dog Spots. But the mayor’s ward, Atari, isn’t having any of it, and launches a daring solo mission to the island to rescue his beloved companion. There, he meets a pack of dogs – Chief, Rex, King, Duke and Boss – who help him traverse Trash Island, while back in Megasaki, an unthinkable solution to the crisis is debated.
Sometimes, Anderson’s 2009 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox didn’t feel like it was made for kids, but by most accounts, kids tend to enjoy the scrungy and raggedy take on the story all the same. He tends to make movies for his inner child, but in this case, his second stop-motion feature Isle Of Dogs should be even more appealing to younger viewers, with its more original and strikingly imaginative story.
Older fans will remember the Tintin flavoured adventure element to his last live-action film The Grand Budapest Hotel, and this film captures that same manic energy and redirects it. Although his past filmography doesn’t suggest that he’s an animal lover, Anderson draws fun characters and gives them the voices of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum – they’re not cutesy, but their bickering makes for some very funny scenes.
It’s a slightly darker story than your average movie for kids, but Anderson and his cast navigate some tonal changes with good humour and care, to make Isle Of Dogs into a bewitchingly weird drama that ought to beguile viewers of most ages.
Is Isle Of Dogs a Good Movie for Kids?
For a PG certificate film, this is quite a scrappy little escapade. Although cartoonish clouds erupt around every fight between the dogs, there is still some injury detail – and even a Mike Tyson-esque manoeuvre that ends a clash between Chief and another hungry dog. (There’s also some mild bad language, used in a context other than describing a female dog – the “cuss”ing of Fantastic Mr. Fox has fallen by the wayside here.)
This content and the overall tone rules it out for the youngest kids, but Atari is a brave young hero that kids can look up to, and Chief has a strong redemption arc from his beginnings as a curmudgeonly stray. The characters learn lessons about not judging others by appearances, and there’s a strong sense of right and wrong here, portraying resistance to despicable government corruption through the lens of an animated Boy’s Own adventure. All of that, and some good dogs!