Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

Release Date: August 19th, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Travis Knight Actors: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, Laura Miro

 


 

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oung Kubo (Art Parkinson) lives a simple life on a small island village. At night, he cares for his frail mother, who suffers from bouts of amnesia. But during the day, Kubo fervently entertains the townsfolk with music, magical origami, and fantastical tales of heroic samurai on treacherous crusades. One evening, while Kubo participates in a customary ritual to receive guidance from his departed father’s spirit, he inadvertently ignores his mother’s warnings not to stay out past nightfall and is accosted by two powerful witches (both voiced by Rooney Mara). His mother comes to his aid, but must sacrifice herself to allow him to escape. Awakening in a snowstorm with a strange monkey (Charlize Theron) as his only friend, Kubo must embark on a quest of discovery just as mystical and perilous as those he once told.

“Pay careful attention to everything you may see or hear.” There’s something striking about the choice repetitions of significant lines, and something reservedly powerful about the opening moments, featuring a mother who bares physical scars to match those of her son. And the use of a diminutive storyteller to narrate and shape his own skein of adventure and tragedy is particularly inspiring, especially as he bravely confronts the heartbreak of tending to the gaps in memory and the spells of stupor that overtake his mother’s normalcy. It’s all part of the groundwork for a mesmerizing odyssey.

Masterfully blending together Oriental high fantasy (or a romanticization of Japanese feudal military aristocracy), Greek mythology, and an Americanized viewpoint on action and heroism, “Kubo and the Two Strings” is seemingly anachronistic in its cultural suggestions and verbiage (though nevertheless sharply scripted) as it sets about constructing an epic expedition through an orphic land. Despite resorting to formulaic processes for its protagonists, for the great evils that target them, and for the supernatural heraldry that protects them, few moments can be directly compared to any other animated picture. The witches are perfectly diabolical – and entirely uncommon for a family-friendly venture – while a bone golem, a paper samurai, and a boat of leaves are each wholly original manifestations. The artistry on display is of the extremely imaginative, highly visual kind, creating a notable style for its world that Laika Entertainment appears to have cornered (predominantly in its use of stop-motion animation and massive armatures, previously employed for “Coraline” and “Corpse Bride,” among others).

The plot tends to wander in the middle of the film as the basic components of a grand adventure weigh on the uniqueness of the individual missions, which occasionally fail to transition or relate to the overarching concepts as smoothly as the should. Similarly, the editing together of a few scenes is abrupt, as if segues was cut out for time. But it does succeed handsomely at the start. Setting a tone and introducing characters are efficiently handled tasks, but steadily incorporating the magical elements is done superbly. By the time the talking monkey shows up, it never once feels out of place. The possessed folded paper, the phantasmal music, and the winning expressions on strangely palpable faces are all natural, amusing pieces of this vivid trek of continual wonderment and excitement.

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10