Isle of Dogs review - weird and wonderful, but wuff around the edges
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Isle of Dogs is weird, wonderful and packed with exqusite and meticulous details - in other words, it's a Wes Anderson film. The great, lively and imaginative bits mostly outweigh the headscratchers. Mostly. Isle of Dogs is a stop-motion animated film set in a dystopian future Japan, in which the entire canine population is forcibly exiled to a placed Trash Island (because of how now nice and clean it is) due to growing concerns about a dog virus. Also, the people are prejudiced against dogs because the ruling class prefer cats - as you do. The young ward of the Mayor of Megasaki City, Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) goes to Trash Island to search for his lost dog/personal bodyguard Spots. There he meets a pack of dogs - Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Boss (Bill Murray) and Chief (Bryan Cranston) - who decide to help. Hijinks ensue. All of the dogs speak English (advanced bark translation technology), whereas the human characters speak their native languages, mostly Japanese - with no subtitles. This is one of the movie's biggest headscratchers. A lot of the Japanese dialogue ends up translated via third parties (like an interpreter played by Frances McDormand) for exposition purposes - so much so that you start to wonder why the movie didn't just opt for a straight up English dub or just, you know, subtitles. There are easier ways to establish that the dogs and humans can only communicate with their own species. The language barrier the movie sets up is unnecessary and also shows the movie's hand by clearly positioning it for a Western, English-speaking audiences. Like the dogs, we're not supposed to understand what the Japanese characters are saying, except for a few simple phrases and commands. It's weird for a movie that incorporates Japanese culture and folklore to such an extent to also treat its Japanese characters like foreigners.
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