A delight, albeit one that is red in tooth and claw. Wes Anderson’s stop-motion Japanese folk tale about dogs and their people opens with a Japanese folk tale about dogs and their people (and also, cats and their people). And midway through, there’s a display of Kabuki theater that almost begins to approach Anderson’s own level of stylized staging here. In pushing as far East as he can go, he may have reached a kind of aesthetic apotheosis. His control of the frame is absolute and it shows, often to spectacular effect, and sometimes to the point where the narrative fades into the background. But it doesn’t matter overmuch, because he’s got his dogs to keep us warm: Chief, Rex, King, Boss, Duke & Co., exiled along with the rest of Megasaki’s canine population to Trash Island by an ailurophilic mayor. (If you’ve ever thought Anderson’s characters didn’t talk quite like real people, rejoice: they don’t talk like real people here, either, and it’s wonderfully effective, because they’re dogs.) The pack is sick, starving, and on the verge of collapse until a boy shows up looking for his lost pooch and the dogs find purpose. Speaking of A Dog’s Purpose, this film is happily that one’s opposite in nearly every way, especially when it comes to death, pain, and love. I suspect Isle of Dogs would make most dog-loving kids (of an appropriate age) cry. I also suspect they’d be glad they saw it. (2018) — Matthew Lickona
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