Isle of Dogs

By Nat Master

Mailed on April 06, 2018

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Dear Andy Gent
Head of Puppets Department

Dear Andy,

Dude, how adorable are your dogs?! Isle of Dogs is the most fun I’ve had at a Wes Anderson movie since Fantastic Mr. Fox. You see, when it comes to Wes Anderson, I maintain that his animal characters are far more endearing than his human ones. While Isle of Dogs is enjoyable and so lovely to look at, it raises some uncomfortable questions. But I don’t give a crap because you made the goddamn cutest animated dogs ever.

I have a love-hate relationship with Wes Anderson’s work; yes, his meticulously crafted visual tableaux and twee-er than twee aesthetics are enchanting, but the whole dour, awkward, emotionally stunted hipster man-child thing he always has going on with his characters makes me want to drive a fork into my eye. Happily, with this particular adventure in cultural appropriation, I didn’t have to deal with any of that. There is a lot of talk out there about Anderson’s cringeworthy treatment of Japanese culture and general tone-deafness when it comes to on-screen diversity. But hey, Isle of Dogs has only one annoying white hipster, and problematic white saviour trope aside, I will take that as a blessing. The critique of Isle of Dogs regarding representation and appropriation is completely on-point, but really, it’s like we’ve forgotten that The Darjeeling Limited happened, and that Anderson’s idea of diversity pretty much begins and ends with random Seu Jorge interludes and a silently glowering Waris Ahluwalia. One might raise Tony Revolori’s character in The Grand Budapest Hotel to counter my point, but I’d argue there’s a lot to unpack there as well.

Ultimately, Anderson’s wheelhouse is stories about awkward white weirdos, and he is admittedly good at making us like them. If you’re looking for any kind of thoughtful or responsible representation of diverse cultures or aesthetic traditions, you’re out of luck. You might as well scold an apple for not being an orange.

Your dogs are perfectly modelled and brought to life brilliantly by the actors who voice them, but what is even more striking is the warmth you infused them with, one that I always find is lost in Anderson’s human characters. If this was a live action movie with human characters, I don’t think I would have been half as fond of them, but your work is so great I hold out hope for a sequel told from the point of view of Megasaki’s cats (everyone stop hissing, some of us are cat people, okay?).



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