Kubo and the Two Strings Review
PG: Thematic Elements, Scary Images, Action and Peril
Focus Features, Laika
1 Hr and 40 Minutes
Voice Cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, with Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Brenda Vaccaro
In Ancient Japan, an eyepatch-wearing young boy named Kubo cares for his sick mother in a village. This is 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 with the help from a monkey and a beetle.
REVIEW: For the Oregon animation studio Laika, their craft has become a household name from their first three films Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls. Their last film being the Boxtrolls was a sign that their storytelling was getting on the decline. You can have amazing artistry but you have to deliver on story which Boxtrolls failed to do by giving us a bland storyline and dull experience. So with their newest film Kubo it wasn’t known to be expected. We knew the animation will be great but will it deliver on story too?
THE GOOD: Laika’s animation has been through several different cultures from American to English, and now we get to Japanese culture. The designs of the characters from their clothing to their facial features are beautiful. Even the production design of the village to a samurai’s fortress is taken from Japanese culture that you see from the stop motion created architect. The film incorporates origami as not only an addition to astound audiences eyes, but to also tell story not only in the film but for the audience watching as well.
The story in this film is beautiful. This is an original story that isn’t only written so tight, but also have emotional depth. In an age where all we see is remakes, reboots, and sequels. Laika actually pulled out a Pixar move that is much better than Pixar’s film that was released this year. There are even plot twists that get you off guard. There is even one at the very end which makes you realize what the title of the film really meant. The movie deals with the bond of family in both life and death. It’s a Japanese version of The Book of Life in a way. It tells a story that actually deals with loss of family much stronger than Finding Dory did earlier this year. What Disney’s Mulan did for Chinese culture, Kubo does for Japanese. Instead of focusing on honor, it focuses on spiritual beliefs, cultural tradition sand ancient folklore.
The film benefits from a lot of action that keeps you on your toes. For a family film it’s pretty brutal and frightening at times. The conversations and theories of death is spoken throughout and it gets dark in times when death occurs. There are moments it gets genuinely sadand its so heartbreaking to a point you begin to cry. I saw grown adults crying. I saw myself crying. The movie gets to a really depressing place that you question how is the situation going to resolve. From the opening scene, it engages you and pretty much says “WE’RE NOT YOUR AVERAGE LIGHTHEARTED FAMILY FILM. WE’RE LAIKA!” Which is a really great thing because when you thought Boxtrolls (which really was their softest film) was just Laika getting light on us, they get back to the form that makes them distinct. Not only their animation is their craft but story is too. Coraline was dark, Paranorman was dark yet goofy, and Boxtrolls was just entertainment. This is more dark and goofy in the vain Paranorman was but has the dark elements that matches up with Coraline.
THE BAD: The only flaw the film has is a quick one. There is a joke in the beginning that is extremely cringe worthy. In the cast we gave George Takai. If you question which character he plays, the first thing his character says is the George Takai catchphrase (don’t act like you don’t know what it is) and you will either groan, sigh, or face palm yourself. The humor is hit and miss which is true in really all of Laika's productions but in here there is an improvement. The film has visual gags from character expressions and dialogue that for the most part is really funny. Then other parts it’s just eh, but kids will love it.
LAST STATEMENT: With a profound original story with emotional depth, meaning, and beautiful artistry that thankfully brings back originality in a cramped year of sequels/reboots/and remakes, Kubo and the Two Strings isn’t only Laika’s returned form of storytelling but one of their most brilliant ones yet.
Rating: 4.5/5 | 97%
Super Scene: End Credit sequence where Laika animators are shown creating the skull monster in the film (they do this in every film and each time its getting much more creative)