This morning I saw Isle of Dogs, starring the voices of Bryan Cranston and Scarlett Johansson.
Wes Anderson's latest release is inventive, clever, heartwarming, funny, detailed and unique in his signature style. It's also slow-paced, underutilized and at times (sorry) just plain boring.
On the positive side, the voice actors are all brilliant and suited to the persons or canines they represent. Cranston's "Chief" is a dog who bites and doesn't take kindly to being told what to do. Johansson's "Nutmeg" is a sultry beauty, prone to performing tricks at will (and asking observers to imagine her missing props). Bill Murray's "Boss," is well ... very Bill Murray.
Hearing these actors interact with convincing dog dialog is delightful. Anyone who's ever had a pet develops ways of communicating with them, but here we get to imagine what their conversations would be like amongst one another. Where the film fell flat was when it focused on "The Little Pilot," an annoying student activist and the government characters who deport the dogs from Japan.
Perhaps their similarities to our modern-day political world hit too close to home, or maybe I'm just conditioned to see pets portrayed in simpler situations. Whatever the case, the film suffered for me when the focus was on the humans.
In addition, the animation is brilliant, but there are quite a few shots of the dogs walking across the screen in a line. Also several scenes of the trash island they've been deported to (that feels sadly like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch). There's also a hell of a lot of drumming throughout everything. And that gets old real fast.
Go for the gorgeous artistry and strong writing; just know you may need a cup of coffee to get through some of the duller stretches.