On Monday night, the Mission’s Roxie Theater literally rolled out the red carpet for a pack of pooches.
Billed as a “bring your own dog” screening of Wes Anderson’s new stop-motion animation film, Isle of Dogs, the festivities began on the sidewalk outside the venue. Where else would proud owners pose their furry pals on a makeshift red carpet for glamor shots?
Local canine celebrity Pirate — a one-eyed ball of white fluff with a healthy number of Instagram followers — made his entrance alongside owner and radio host Greg McQuaid. Other pups from local senior-dog rescue operation Muttville hurried into the theater behind him — no doubt captivated by foreign aroma of authentic buttered popcorn.
More guests were soon to arrive, including Leila the Chihuahua, Charlie Bucket the Yorkie, and Iko the Shiba Inu. Not every dog was thrilled to learn they wouldn’t be the only game in town, but fortunately, friendships quickly formed.
Inside was likewise a joyful madhouse. The New York Times set up shop at the front of seats to take glamor shots and interview the humans gleefully parading their four-legged family. After a short introduction from McQuaid and a Muttville staffer, the main event got underway.
Isle of Dogs is a twee yet visually stunning work that follows a pack of pooches — voiced by the likes of Jeff Goldlbum and Edward Norton — who live in the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki until they mayor orders that they be exiled to a garbage dump known as Trash Island. Fortunately, a boy named Atari arrives (or rather crash lands) shortly after on the hunt for his missing dog, Spots.
Like Anderson’s previous efforts, the film is a mix of dry humor and existential melancholy. Bolstered by a cast that also includes Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, and Anderson’s longtime muse, Bill Murray, the feature succeeds in striking a balance between light-hearted laughs and moments of profound introspection. Throw in the meticulously crafted aesthetic that marks Anderson’s work, and you’ve got a recipe fans of the director will eagerly devour.
For their part, the canine audience members seemed to take the screening in stride. Aside from very occasional snarls and woofs, the Roxie was shockingly quiet for the duration of the 101-minute running time. The choice to replace the glow of screens and mid-movie conversations one often encounters at all human screenings with a few loyal pets was in fact such a success that other theaters might need to consider instituting similar offerings.
When the lights went up, it was time to wake up for the dogs, as many of them had selfishly opted to catch some beauty sleep during the screening. Filing out of the Roxie, there was little evidence to suggest they’d even been there. Concerns of carpeting embattled by urine or theater seats chewed beyond recognition proved unfounded.
All that remained were a few stray hairs and the distance patter of paws — the sounds of a happy audience ready to return home.
Isle of Dogs (Fox Searchlight) opens in San Francisco on Friday, March 23.