The plot finds five dogs (voiced by Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray and Bob Balaban) helping a boy (voiced by Koyu Rankin) find his beloved Spots on a trash island where every dog was quarantined due to the fear-mongering government that rules
The story is reliant on exposition and flashbacks to convince the audience of its rationale and authenticity, but Anderson is skilled in pacing and balancing the present against the past. After this top-notch establishing of a new world, Anderson finds equally engaging relationships and developments between most of the characters. It’s just as much fun to ask “what happened?” in addition to “what’s happening?”
Anderson explores themes like family and duty with characters that have a lot to say about those topics: dogs and children. Moment-to-moment, snappy and witty dialogue gives the audience a trail of breadcrumbs to follow into the next scene. Even if a scene doesn’t add anything new to the story, it fleshes out the central characters and gives the audience humans something to smile about, though some characters aren’t as detailed as others.
Edward Norton’s Rex, for example, functions well as a quasi-leader for his ragtag friends, but midway through the film, there’s a disappointing lack of action for Norton, Goldblum, Murray
The dialogue is spoken through whimsically animated puppets and the level of detail is some of the best eye candy of the year: every tuft of fur that moves in the wind and every cotton ball explosion from a fight looks terrific. Larger movements such as walking and talking also look and feel very authentic, like the scene where a group of scientists
The film’s Japanese backdrop is not fully authentic to Japan, but rather authentic to Anderson’s painstakingly created world. As a result, it is loved as a product of appreciation to Japan rather than a product of authenticity. Kaoru Watanabe composed distinctly Japanese taiko drumming pieces that are a highlight inside a mostly Western sonic palette, but every piece of music works well as a function inside of Anderson’s world.
Additionally, it was slightly discouraging to see Greta Gerwig’s Tracy take a more central role. While Gerwig’s voice work is just as well done as everyone else’s, Anderson builds up his unique version of Japan just to alienate the Japanese citizens from the audience by focusing on a white American character. Gerwig’s English is essential to understanding the humans’ actions, but her character’s boldness almost veers into white savior territory.
Once again, however, the world created by Anderson makes a point to establish