The incandescent Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom) dusts off his imaginative stop-action animation skills (Fantastic Mr. Fox) with this spellbinding, exquisitely detailed, Japan-themed gem that may be his weirdest and most daring film yet.
The A-list voice cast includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama and even Yoko Ono.
Twelve-year-old Atari Kobayashi defies his uncle, the corrupt mayor of Megasaki City, and makes his way to the huge gomi dump called Trash Island to which the mayor has exiled all of the city’s dogs, in order to find his beloved dog Spot. Once there, he finds allies in a group of motley mongrels.
It’s all hugely entertaining, filled with sly humor and deadpan wit, especially if you live or have lived in Japan. It’s also a political parable, though a weak one; and my only criticism is that the totalitarian allegory about internment and deportation could have been taken a bit further. As it is, the thin plot doesn’t really justify its hour and 40 minute runtime. But this is a quibble.
This movie’s a bilingual blast, subtitled in English and Japanese as necessary. I’m going to watch it again. And you’d be a fool to see it on anything but the big screen. For the sound. Think taiko drums scored by Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water). (101 min)