Movie Review: ISLE OF DOGS

Honored to be a new writer at Booze Blogs. This is my first post. It’s not the first time I’ve ever typed words, but it’s the first time I’ve typed words specifically for the Booze Nation. I signed in with my old WordPress account so therefore I have absolutely no idea what name will show for me. That said, I will be using my pen name, Eagle. It’s a long story and one I will blog about someday, but for now I will keep it a mystery as to how that nickname came about. Keep your expectations low, it’s a really boring story. However, I still like the nickname, plus I have used it for my old blog posts. Might as well keep it here. Nicknames such as Drunk White Kid and Seascoop did not set the bar high. So, Eagle it is.

Anyway, I dig flicks. And chicks for that matter. Just realized Flicks and Chicks sounds like a podcast title based out of a frat house. I digress.

One of my priorities on this site will be writing movie reviews. And there’s no better place to start than a film from one of my all-time favorite directors, Wes Anderson. Let’s rock…..

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When reviewing movies, I like to keep it simple (for the most part). I’ll begin with a spoiler-free synopsis for those who have not yet seen the picture. Then, I prefer laying out three positives and three negatives, followed by a short summary with overall thoughts and the all-important letter grade.

SYNOPSIS/EARLY THOUGHTS

Although Wes Anderson, as mentioned, is one of my favorite directors (top-five easily), I was not all too excited for Isle of Dogs. Of course, I was still stoked, but not as much as I was for Moonrise Kingdom or The Grand Budapest Hotel. However, Anderson going back to a stop-motion film, I thought, was a tremendous decision after the success of The Grand Budapest Hotel (both commercially and critically). With Budapest it kind of felt like Anderson peaked with that particular style (for now). Budapest was NOT my favorite Anderson film, but it still felt like a magnum opus of sorts for his trademark of dry humor, ensemble casts, symmetry, and French music. Taking a pause from the live action and following the stop-motion majesty of Fantastic Mr. Fox was, again, smart.

An early concern of mine: Isle of Dogs seemed really stupid (more on this later). The advertised plot from Fox Searchlight was: “After dogs are banned from Japan and sent astray, Chief (Bryan Cranston) and a team of dogs help a boy track down his lost dog.” It’s far-fetched (pun absolutely intended) and just, really, kinda dumb. Let’s be honest. The entire base of the film is that dogs are banned in Japan by their evil dictators. It’s absurd, and totally Wes Anderson, so he gets a pass from most viewers. Had this story not been from Wes Anderson and his team, no chance it gets the buzz Isle is receiving. At times, it really feels like a parody of a Wes Anderson film.

THREE NEGATIVES

1) TOO MUCH JAPANESE: It’s hard to explain just how much Japanese is in this movie. Just a lot. There are literally scenes of 4 or 5 minutes with straight Japanese and no English subtitles. It was absurd. I never once found it charming, and the early joke made about how they wouldn’t be having subtitles was funny, until it came true. It got sooooo old watching the characters speak with no clue what was being said.

2) THE CLAY (?) LOOK OF THE FILM: Isle of Dogs does not look at all like Fantastic Mr. Fox. Not at all. Dogs looks more like Robot Chicken rather than Anderson’s first stop-motion classic, made entirely with puppets. The charm is not there this time, at least it wasn’t for me. This is strictly for the look of the characters, not the camera style of shot composition.

3) THE STORY: It honestly just sucks. It really does. It’s stupid. Are there funny moments? Absolutely. Several laugh out loud moments. But after an hour and half of hearing about something that would never, never happen, I was ready for the movie to end. Moonrise Kingdom had a memorable story. Rushmore had a memorable story. Isle of Dogs does not compare.

THREE POSITIVES

1) THE CAST: Look at the poster or credits on IMDb. There are too many stars to name.

2) THE SEMI-DIFFERENT STYLE FOR ANDERSON: I absolutely adore the look of all Wes Anderson films. Isle was slightly different, but it was cool to see a little different style. Less symmetry opened the door for more clever Anderson shots. Budapest was criticized by some for being too obsessed with the symmetry Anderson look, but those who complained won’t be able to say much about Dogs. There were shots in Isle of Dogs that Wes Anderson had absolutely never done before (this coming from someone who had study his work like no other).

3) THE EDITING: Isle of Dogs moves fast. Very, very fast. Lots and lots happens, but the flawless editing mixed with an awesome score by Alexandre Desplat was one of the highlights for me.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

I think this review sounds a bit too harsh for how much I did actually like the film. A lot of it might have to do with Anderson making something that I don’t see lasting very long because of the story. It just, in the end, isn’t going to a memorable movie. It’s solid, obviously well-made, but something I won’t be watching again for a little while, if ever. As stated, there are absolutely funny moments, some great new direction from Anderson, but characters to care about are gone. Bryan Cranston’s voice can only do so much.

GRADE

B+

-Eagle

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