Monday, August 22, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings - Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop motion animation film produced by Laika Entertainment (Paranorman, Coraline) and directed by Travis Knight. The film, which tells the story of a boy in Japan who must reclaim the lost artifacts and honor of his murdered father, features voice acting performances from Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Brenda Vaccaro, and Art Parkinson.

The Review:
Laika Entertainment has been at the forefront of stop motion animation for years and they pride themselves on taking the genre to new heights with each film they release. Proving that mantra, the sheer size and scale of this story goes far above and beyond anything achieved before and the whole thing is just absolutely stunning and beautiful to look at. I was seriously blown away by what I was watching on screen and not just from the amazing visuals, but the story, taken from Japanese folktales and mythology, is just as well conceived and comes with a serious emotional punch.

These photos are taken from concept art and not representative of the finished film.
With so many animated films coming out every year, it seems harder to find options that are truly original and not just rehashes of the same material or formula films meant to sell toys and happy meals over having any real substance. This is not one of those films, it is a very original and honestly quite refreshing take on the hero's journey and a coming of age tale unlike anything you may have seen before. The heroism is honestly portrayed, the danger is real and ever present, and there are underlying themes of family and loss that flesh things out nicely.

One of the things I'm a bit torn about is the roster of talent brought in to voice the characters we see on screen and only because I would have liked to see more of an authentic representation. The story is set in Japan and all of the characters are Japanese although not one of the primary characters is voiced by a Japanese actor or actress. It was often difficult to hear McConaughey's southern drawl coming out of a samurai warrior and, while I get why big Hollywood names are brought in, I just don't have to like it.

The Verdict:
Kubo and the Two Strings has about everything you could want in a summertime, family friendly movie going experience. Great story, beautiful animation, high flying action, genuine comedy, and just enough tugging at the heartstrings to keep you fully invested. As you can tell, I loved this movie and will be recommending it to everyone I can find. I did see the movie in 3D and thought it looked really good although I would not say it is absolutely essential to enjoying the movie.

The video below is not a trailer, it's a behind the scenes clip that gives you an idea of what it took to bring this stop motion animated feature to life.

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