'Isle of the Dogs' does not stray

There is an out-of-body melancholy that sets in about three quarters of the way through Wes Anderson's ninth feature "Isle of Dogs."

There is an out-of-body melancholy that sets in about three quarters of the way through Wes Anderson’s ninth feature “Isle of Dogs.”

Yes, you will be inexplicably wrapped up in the drama of a gang of sickly stop-motion animated dogs who have been exiled to a trash island and are determined to get back to a life of cozy domesticity, enchanted by its artistry and trying your best to suppress your laughter so you don’t miss a beat.

In the film, an anti-dog mania hits Japan and all dogs are exiled to a trash island.

With story help from Anderson mainstays Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman and new addition Kunichi Nomura, Anderson writes a fable of sorts set 20 years in the future, when canine flu has infected an entire population of dogs, causing manic behavior, weight loss and adorable sneezing. It’s also sparked an anti-dog mania in Japan that has left some searching for a cure and others eager to just rid the country of the problem. Mayor Kobayashi (Nomura) and his ghoulish henchmen Major-Domo (Akira Takayama) respond in turn by exiling all dogs to a trash island and rejecting any possibility of a scientific solution.

The humans, however, are decidedly the supporting cast in “Isle of Dogs,” which more than a few people have already pointed out sounds a heck of a lot like “I Love Dogs.” On the island, the once pampered set of house pets have all gone (somewhat) wild, fighting over maggot-infested scraps and dreaming of the days of doggie treats, baths and plush pillows. They’ve self-divided into little survivalist troupes and whisper to one another about rumors of cannibal dogs on the other side of the island.

Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” is set 20 years in the future when canine flu has infected dogs. 

Our group is led by Chief (Bryan Cranston), a stray among house pets, and made up of Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), King (Bob Balaban) and Duke (Jeff Goldblum). And their world is upended when a boy, Atari (Koyu Rankin), crashes his place on the island.

“Are we eating him or is this a rescue?” one dog asks. “Not sure yet,” another responds.

It’s the perfect encapsulation of Anderson’s humor — precise, straightforward and a little dark. Ultimately, “Isle of Dogs” is otherworldly — vibrant, purposeful and jam-packed with details that will make you want to watch it over and over. 

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