Starring: Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Kotu Rankin, Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Wes Anderson
BBFC Certificate: PG
Running time: 102 mins
UK Release Date: Out Now
Wes Anderson can be an infuriating director sometimes – far too arch and quirky for the sake of it. However here, in this stop motion tale, he decides to use his imagination but reign in the gaucheness. The result is a film that radiates warmth, charm and a gentle humour, without trying too hard.
It’s an intriguing set up. In a corporate, greedy Japan of the future, the country has decided to get rid of its garbage on a tiny island. There too they put their dogs, after they discover the mutts all have dog flu and snout disease. The poor mutts scrape out a miserable existence, feeding on scraps and trying to stay alive.
However, the adopted son of the emperor finds his own pooch has been shipped onto the island, and so flies out to try and find Spots. He crash lands and befriends a gang of dogs, including stray Cranston, Norton, Murray, Goldblum and Johansson, who all join in a doggie version of Saving Private Ryan.
And what an adventure they have. There are all sorts of visual gags as the gang make their way across the polluted, ruined island which was inhabited by humans before a tsunami emptied it. My own favourite moment was the old golf course and country club, which now has “no members”. The attention to detail is fantastic, the dog shelter is made of recycled sake bottles, and the boy’s plane is a knackered piece of wonder.
There is clearly a message here about recycling and cleaning up our fragile planet, as well as the love of humans for dogs – say the title of the film quickly and you’ll see what I mean – but it’s never heavy handed.
Half of the fun is trying to place the voices to the actors, and Cranston is particularly good as the stray who has never felt the love of a human, or even the joy of a doggie snack.
Overall verdict: If you don’t go out and get a dog immediately after watching this joy you’re not, well, human. Wes Anderson has produced a gem. It’s one of his best films ever. Or the best, even?
Reviewer: Mike Martin