Isle of Dogs

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Isle of Dogs Movie Poster Image
Wondrous, bittersweet, funny, edgy animated canine story.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 101 minutes
 Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 26 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 35 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Lies are uncovered (the truth will out!), and redemption is possible through sacrifice/generosity. The dogs learn that togetherness, teamwork, and forming a family are better in many ways than being loners. Kindness and loyalty are valued. It's important to treat animals with respect.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Chief learns trust while still retaining at least a bit of his "wild side." Most of the other dogs show loyalty in some way, and they're all quite emotional but don't judge each other for it. Arguably the best role model is the human girl, Tracy Walker, who uses her voice and the power of the press to stand up to oppression and corruption. It's worth noting that she's the film's only white character, and she happens to be the one who saves the day.

Violence

Chunk of metal impaled in boy's head (it doesn't affect him at all). Small blood spurt. Drawings/depictions of a beheaded samurai. Dogs fight; shown as swirling clouds of smoke, with appendages jutting in and out. Dog with military-issue "exploding teeth" that fire like bullets. Some wounds -- e.g., a chewed-off ear. Disturbing sushi-making scene (chopping and slicing live fish). A human character is poisoned; a dead body with bulging eyes is shown. Dogs locked in cages. Mention of a boy's parents dying in a train wreck. Unpleasant pictures of dogs sick with "canine flu." Dog skeletons. Mention of dogs being put to sleep. Spoken story about a dog biting a child, with "blood all over the floor." Some shouting/yelling. Kidney transplant operation shown, with some blood and gore. Scary character with monster-like face. Talk of suicide.

Sex

Mild sex-related dialogue, such as "dogs in heat," etc. References to dogs mating and having litters of puppies. Male human's naked butt shown getting out of a bath.

Language

A use of "son of a bitch," a use of "bitch" (in reference to a female dog) and two uses of "damn it."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult human character drinks in a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Isle of Dogs is an imaginative stop-motion animated movie from Wes Anderson, who also directed Fantastic Mr. Fox; this one has a bit more iffy material. Dogs fight (shown as a cloud of smoke with limbs popping in and out), and we see injuries to both dogs and humans and a little animated blood and gore. Some dogs have military-issue teeth that fire like bullets and explode. A sushi chef chops up live, moving fish for a meal. Minor characters die, dog skeletons are shown, and there are spoken and visual moments with scary and/or unpleasant images (as well as talk of suicide). Expect a few references to dogs being in heat and mating; a human male's bottom is seen as he gets out of the bath. Language includes "son of a bitch," "bitch" (referring to a female dog), and "damn it." A woman sits at a bar with drinks in front of her. Some younger kids might be confused by the lack of translation of most of the movie's spoken Japanese, but the story is still totally clear (although it has sparked some discussion around possible cultural appropriation). It's a wondrous movie, but it's likely best for tweens and up.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 year old Written bymadw March 24, 2018

Great movie but too complicated for younger kids

I took my 8 year old and her 7 year old friend today. I was a little worried that the movie would be violent/scary (seeing it was rated PG13), but this wasn... Continue reading
Adult Written byMomOf2inVT March 31, 2018

"Super terrifying movie includes murder"

"Terrible, gruesome story line" Not for sensitive kids at all! Those quotes are from my 9 year old. Ten minutes into the movie my near 11 year old... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 23, 2018
The movie is nice as a whole but i wouldn’t watch it again. There is mild cuss in it and the violence is there but i honestly don’t think that it is scary. The... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 30, 2018

Not for younger kids!

This movie is amazing. Wes Anderson delivers yet another fantastic film. The voice acting is great and there are really good characters throughout including Ata... Continue reading

What's the story?

In ISLE OF DOGS, canine flu has ravaged a futuristic Japan, and the tyrannical mayor Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura) decides to exile all dogs to Trash Island, starting with his own son Atari's faithful pooch, Spots (Liev Schreiber). Some time later, Atari (Koyu Rankin) crash-lands a small plane on the island in search of his beloved pet. Instead, he meets a roving gang of five dogs: Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum) -- all of whom lived in homes with humans -- and Chief (Bryan Cranston), who was mostly a stray. While they search for Spots, Chief slowly starts to bond with Atari. Meanwhile, an exchange student named Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), working at her school newspaper, tries to uncover a government conspiracy against the dogs.

Is it any good?

Wes Anderson's ninth feature film (his second in stop-motion animation) is his wildest and waggiest yet, expanding his wondrous, inventive vision while retaining his meticulous compositions. Isle of Dogs -- which, if spoken aloud, sounds like "I love dogs" -- is probably Anderson's first movie to deal with the downtrodden and rejected, as well as politics and conspiracies, yet all of these things feel perfectly at home in his universe. He's been accused many times of being overly cute, but he clearly loves his characters; he probably laughs along with their quirky sense of humor.

The movie is sublimely funny but also a bit edgy, and it's certainly bittersweet and heartfelt. Certain moments are bound to prompt a tear or two, such as when Chief tastes a doggie treat for the first time. Anderson's last stop-motion movie, Fantastic Mr. Fox, was more kid friendly and also more straightforward. This one has a much bigger vision, and its movements and rhythms are utterly unique. The compositions of the shots are unfailingly jaw-dropping; as with the work of Stanley Kubrick, any frame from this movie could be taken out and viewed as a beautiful snapshot. On the whole, it's a pure treasure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Isle of Dogs' use of violence. How much is shown, and how much is suggested? Is the violence meant to be unpleasant or exciting? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How did teamwork help the characters in Isle of Dogs realize their goal? When you're a member of a team, how do you help your team succeed?

  • Is Tracy Walker a positive role model? Why or why not?

  • Anderson has clearly taken great care in his world-building and his choices in depicting Asian characters, but some people may find it problematic due to what could be viewed as stereotypical characterization and a "white savior." What's your take on Anderson's/the movie's choices in this respect?

Movie details

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