Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

  • Time: 98 min
  • Genre: Animation | Adventure | Family
  • Director: Travis Knight
  • Cast: Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey


Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shoreside village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆½ out of 5 )


    IN BRIEF: An animated film brimming with stunning visuals.

    GRADE: B+

    SYNOPSIS: A young boy goes on a quest to find a magic helmet and armor to protect himself and others from evil forces.

    JIM’S REVIEW: Laika Studios (Coraline. ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls) has long been pioneers in stop-motion animation, a time-consuming and difficult art form. This studio has always set a high bar in terms of animation, although its storytelling never quite equal that pinnacle of success. With Kubo and the Two Strings, it has finally combined the two and has created a joyous and totally satisfying film experience.

    Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a master storyteller who charms the villagers with his imaginative tales and origami skills. As his stories unfold, literally, so does this film. Colorful sheets of handmade papers glide through the air and form various objects in such graceful and enthralling ways, animation-wise. We learn of his story, of his past life, and the dangers that await in his future. We meet Kubo and begin his journey with new comrades like Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) as they travel from one peril to the next.

    The screenplay by Mark Haimes and Chris Butler has an epic feel and keeps the action sequences moving at a fast pace after a leisure beginning as its sets up its character and the interrelationships of this trio of adventurers. The direction by Travis Knight is impeccable. He envisions surreal worlds that are masterful created by him and his creative team. In general, the voiceover work is strong and appealing too, especially by Ms. Theron, Ralph Fiennes as the Moon King, and Master Parkinson in the title role. There is also fine work from George Takei, Brenda Vacarro, and Rooney Mara in smaller roles. However, Mr. McConaughey’s vocals never quite blend with his character, but, in his defense, the character needed better development on the written page and in its animated form.

    At times, the words sound like second-rate bromides from a foreign cookie factory, but the imagery is consistently outstanding and awesome to behold. There is so much artistry that it overwhelms…in the best of ways. A magical sword cuts waves in two…a large red skeleton looms over its prey…black smoke bellows around a village, enveloping it…a sea of glowing eyes fills its watery surroundings…blue paper-folded birds fly with their real counterparts before rapidly converting into mosquitoes…golden leaves float effortlessly and create a ship of wonders. (One long and memorable sequence involving a fluorescent metallic serpent is spectacular state-of-the-art animation.)

    Beside the remarkable stop motion work, special mention must go to Dario Marinelli and his musical score which melds perfectly with the imagery on screen. His use of atonal chords and dissonance reflect the Japanese sounds beautifully and enhance the overall impact of the film.

    There are some minor, very minor. missteps along the way (Mr. McConaughey disappoints whenever his Southern drawl slips in and out of character, most jarringly, the spiritual symbolism of the narrative gets heavy-handed, and the dialogue has a modern edginess that conflicts with this ancient narrative storyline).

    That said, Kubo and the Two Strings, is easily one of the best animated films this year…and one of the best films as well. Bravo, Kubo!

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