From Laika studios, makers of stop-motion animated films “Coraline”, “Paranorman”, and “The Boxtrolls”, comes their fourth animated feature film. Moving away from their usual settings of somewhat modern times, “Kubo and the Two Strings” aims instead for a fantasy setting inspired by Japanese mythology. The result, to put it simply, is stunning.
Raised alone by his sick mother, Kubo spends his days entertaining the local villagers with stories he tells using his guitar and ability to magically bring paper mache creations to life. But when his evil grandfather and aunts discover him, he sets out on a quest, with his companions Monkey and Beetle, to find the pieces of his father’s legendary armor and defeat his enemies who hunt him.
“Kubo” is the first feature length film directed by Travis Knight who previously served as lead animator on Laika’s other animated films. The other behind-the-scenes name that stood out to me was that of Chris Butler who co-wrote the screenplay and also wrote “Paranorman”. (A film I quite enjoyed and is a great family film to watch around Halloween. Full of ghosts, witches, and zombies and inspired by ‘80’s films, it’s an absolute treat to watch.) The voice cast includes Art Parkinson (Game of Thrones’ Rickon “Serpentine” Stark) as Kubo, Charlize Theron as Monkey, Matthew McConaughey as Beetle, Ralph Fiennes as the Moon King, and Rooney Mara as the evil aunts. Weirdly, George Takei is also among the top named actors in all the promotional material but don’t get your hopes up as he really only shows up as a very minor character for two, maybe three lines of dialogue.
I absolutely enjoyed every minute of this film. Each frame showcases the amazing talent of the animators at Laika as they continuously take the typically clunky feel of stop motion animation to new heights. The character models and sets are each brought to life with incredible detail and style, all of which must have been a pain-staking process to get right. While the story is at its core a simple fantasy adventure, there is a heartfelt moral to it all that shines through to it’s finish. With brilliant animation, an engaging fantastical story, and imaginative visuals throughout, “Kubo and the Two Strings” is a film I highly recommend and a must see for animation fans.
(The screening I saw was in 3D and while it added a nice touch of depth to the crafted sets and had a couple cool moments where it really popped, it also detracted from some of the darker scenes in the film in a minor but noticeable way. Do with that info as you will.)