KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (USA/PG/101mins)
Directed by Travis Knight. Starring Charlize Theron, Matthew McConnaughey, Art Parkinson, George Takei, Ralph Fiennes.
THE PLOT: Kubo (Art Parkinson) spends his days making magical origami figures tell stories for the people in a nearby village, and his evenings caring for his mother, who is becoming increasingly distant. When he stays out after dark one night, however, Kubo is visited by his mother’s sinister sisters (Rooney Mara), who tell him that his grandfather stole one of his eyes, and has been searching for him for many years, in order to steal the other. Kubo suddenly realises that the stories he has told all his life are in fact true and, with the help of Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) sets out to find a magical suit of armour to destroy his evil aunts and grandfather once and for all.
THE VERDICT: Brought to us by Laika, the studio behind ‘Coraline’, ‘ParaNorman’ and ‘The Boxtrolls’, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is a beautifully animated stop motion film, that blends together Japanese legend with cinematic adventure, to tell a wonderful tale.
The voice cast of ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is filled with familiar voices, including Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson and Matthew McConaughey in his first animated film. All of the cast do well with their characters, making them warm and caring, sinister and scary, and generally believable on all fronts.
The screenplay, written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler brings together Japanese myth and legend to tell a compelling tale. There are time when plot twists are obvious, but this does not detract from the warmth and fun to be had with the film. Where the story falls down, however, is in the final moments, when characters lie to others in ways that seem out of their nature, and the entire film comes to a galloping, and rather too sweet halt. Aside from this however, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is a fun adventure and mystery tale that is woven together well on screen.
As director Travis Knight, co-founder of Laika, making his directorial debut, obviously has fun with ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’, and the action adventure parts of the film are a particular joy to watch. There are moments that are snatched away too soon for the audience to feel completely satisfied – and, as mentioned, the finale feels a little out of place – but the voice work is strong and the film is a visual delight.
In all, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is a film that will delight adults and kids alike with its clever storytelling, magical adventures and strong message about those who love us never truly going away. This final element does become problematic however, especially in the closing moments of the film.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Oregon-based animation studio Laika have carved out a name for themselves in recent years, creating stop-motion films that are original and distinctive enough to stand up there with the likes of Pixar and Studio Ghibli. Their films aren’t just for kids – they’re definitely for adults too. Coraline, Paranorman and even the cutesy The Boxtrolls had a dark undercurrent running through them. Their latest, Kubo And The Two Strings, is another ball hit way out of the park, making it four for four.

    With a nod to Studio Ghibli, the story is set in a fantastical version of ancient Japan. Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy with a missing eye, hidden by both an eyepatch and his hair. He has the ability to entertain the crowds with his magical display of origami. He’s a boy with a destiny though. His grandfather the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) wants his other eye for unspecified reasons. Kubo becomes separated from his forlorn mother when they’re attacked by Kubo’s evil aunts The Sisters (both voiced by Rooney Mara). Kubo is whisked away to safety by his mother’s magic to a snow-laden landscape, where his only company is a tiny origami samurai called Hanzo, a mean but watchful and protective snow Monkey (Charlize Theron) and a clownish, but well-meaning samurai beetle (Matthew McConaughey). Together, they must find a way to stop the Moon King. The secret may lie in a mystical suit of armour…

    Kubo And The Two Strings is a true original. This reviewer wouldn’t expect anything less from Laika. Directed by Laika CEO and President Travis Knight and co-written by him with Marc Haimes, Chris Butler and Shannon Tindle, the strength of the film lies as much within the story as it is with the gorgeous, fluid stop-motion animation. It’s a hero’s quest journey shot through with a firm sense of time, place and culture. The Japanese setting makes it all the more mystical and special, but this is a universal story of courage, friendship and determination that can translate to any culture and any age. It’s a story with a lot of heart.

    The characters are beautifully designed and crafted too, tapping into Japanese folklore like the giant stop-motion skeleton – the largest ever built at 16 feet (stay for the end credits for a peek behind the wizard’s curtain). Some sequences are just jaw-dropping, like an early sequence involving a battle of origami characters conducted by Kubo to an audience of captivated villagers. The creativity on display is remarkable, setting it apart from mass-market animation churned out by the likes of Dreamworks.

    The voice cast is excellent too – but not to the point where you think of the famous actor behind it. Instead, you’re concentrating on the character in the moment and how the story will eventually be resolved. Arguably Laika’s best film to date, Kubo And The Two Strings is something special. It’s fresh, funny, dark, imaginative and a dozen other superlatives. Very highly recommended. ****