Friday, August 19, 2016

Movie Review #472: "Kubo and the Two Strings" (2016)

Movie"Kubo and the Two Strings"
Director: Travis Knight
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Image Source
A young boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson) goes on an adventure to find his late father's armor so he can complete the quest his father began and destroy the evil Moon King (Ralph Fiennes).

"Kubo and the Two Strings" is a stop motion animated film made by first time director Travis Knight. He was previously an animator and producer on movies like "The Boxtrolls," "Paranorman," and "Coraline," so he isn't a stranger to the beauty and complexities of stop motion. This latest project boasts a tremendously emotional, slightly dark story about a boy named Kubo. As a baby, Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson, had his eye stolen by The Moon King, voiced by Ralph Fiennes, and ever since, The Moon King has been trying his hardest to take Kubo's other eye. Because of this, Kubo's mother has kept him in hiding to protect him. During the day, Kubo is able to run from his home down the long, winding hill to a small nearby town to tell stories in the town square about brave warriors and scary beasts. Everyone in town looks forward to his stories as he brings them to life with the music he plays with his two-stringed guitar type instrument and his magical origami paper, which folds itself into the various characters and actions from his stories as he tells them. Once the night bell tolls, Kubo must return home and stay hidden so he is not discovered by his mother's siblings The Sisters, both voiced by Rooney Mara, who will come looking to retrieve Kubo's eye for their father if he is out after dark.

The previous stop motion animated films made by Laika Entertainment have had a tendency to contain some very dark and fantastical themes, and "Kubo and the Two Strings" is no different. Despite its dark nature, it manages to be a very tender, heartwarming story about family and familial bonds, as well as what happens after people end their earthly journey and move on to the spirit world. This is a charming, stunningly beautiful film in every way imaginable. We would be remiss if we didn't mention the animation first. It is absolutely gorgeous, and just saying so doesn't do it proper justice. The colors, the movement, the imagination, the work it takes to bring a story like this to life is what we love about the magic of movies. The story is magical, intense, fun, perilous, tragic, and heartfelt all at the same time. Each new scene is brimming with excitement, action, and/or wonderment as Kubo treks across the land with his pocket charm come to life Monkey, voiced by Charlize Theron, and a samurai beetle, voiced by Matthew McConaughey, in search of his father's armor. Theron's Monkey is the voice of reason in this adventure, and McConaughey's beetle provides a ton of comic relief with his quippy, smart-aleck nature. The voice over work provided in this movie is truly fabulous. Each actor fits their character perfectly, especially Theron and McConaughey. Rooney Mara voices the terrible Sisters and does so in a menacing, deep, cackling voice, another perfect casting choice. At the center of it all is Art Parkinson, who voices the titular Kubo, and does a spectacular job as this one-eyed boy with a big heart but sorrow in his soul. Ralph Fiennes, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and George Takei round out the rest of the cast in more limited capacities, but are still integral to the story.

"Kubo and the Two Strings" continues the trend of brilliant, creative, vibrant, well meaning animated films from Laika Entertainment. This movie feels like a classic Japanese folktale though it's actually a completely original story. We adore the fact it's a completely new tale for kids to grow up watching and loving throughout their lives. The voice over work is perfect, the score is beautiful and melancholy, but the imagery is even better. The visuals and the character and set design are awe-inspiring. We remained gripped by this story of acceptance, family, sadness, loneliness, and bravery in the face of adversity throughout its run time and it never felt boring or stagnant to us. This genuine story moved us emotionally from laughter and excitement all the way to tears. If there is one movie to come out this August worth the price of admission to your local cinema, it's "Kubo and the Two Strings."

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~95%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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