Isle of Dogs

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Hey American animation industry, yeah you! THIS right here is how you make an animated movie for adults. None of this gimmicky SAUSAGE PARTY stuff, that's juvenile stuff made for 15-year-olds and people who get a kick out of "cartoon characters swearing!" ISLE OF DOGS is the real deal.

Wes Anderson's new film is very much his through and through, as expected. It's beautifully realized through near-immaculate stop-motion animation and wonderful set design, bolstered by a very sharp script and an endearing cast of canines. The premise is batshit wacky, taking advantage of what animation allows. Unlike many animated features being made on American soil today, ISLE OF DOGS tells a rather dark story but tempers its bleaker ideas with Anderson's humor and as-a-matter-of-fact storytelling. Oh, a dog's ear gets bitten off? Well, that happened.

Instead of trying so hard to be edgy, ISLE OF DOGS isn't content with pleasing the easily-amused preteen crowd that a lot of "adult" animation here caters to. It earns its PG-13 rating, and is genuinely for adults. What happens to these dogs is harrowing, the setting is dystopian, and some crazy stuff tends to go down. Some violence, some trauma, some roughness. It's no family fun, nor is it some raunchfest... I shouldn't have to be typing these sentences, because these kinds of animated films should be COMMONPLACE. Enough this pendulum-swinging between family-friendly and ultra-inappropriate, we need smart adult films like this. Too much to ask for, huh?

Rant over... Anyways, ISLE OF DOGS does have some fleas here and there. Why was the one to expose the villains a white exchange student? Also, some exposition here and there could've been trimmed a bit. Otherwise, the script walks at an even pace and makes the simple story seem much bigger. There are so many little flourishes that enhance the experience, and the use of traditional animation for the televised broadcasts really adds to the visual palette. Alexandre Desplat's score is absorbing, much like how it was in Anderson's other animated great, FANTASTIC MR. FOX.

In a rather troubling modern feature animation climate, ISLE OF DOGS reminds us that innovation is still around, and that animation can indeed hit a sweet middle ground between the two corners America shoves it into. Bittersweet, funny, epic, at times unsettling, and loaded with panache, ISLE OF DOGS is a modern animated marvel.