Kubo and the Two Strings The latest stop-motion adventure from the makers of Coraline, The Boxtrolls and ParaNorman is a hugely entertaining fantasy adventure, one that perfectly blends light and dark elements with fantastic action and an absolutely killer sense of humour.
Kubo is not like the other children in the village. He lives in a cave by the cliffs, caring for his ill mother and raising money by telling tall tales to the local villagers. He manages to make his stories stand out by literally bringing them to life using origami figures and magic. Oh… and if he’s ever seen by the night sky, his grandfather will find him and pluck out his one remaining eye!
Needless to say, circumstances conspire to have Kubo out after curfew and after an encounter with his wicked aunts, he’s sent on a quest to seek out his father’s armour, with only a magical stone monkey (Charlize Theron) as his companion.
Bitter Sweet Symphony
Like the very best tall tales, Kubo is a relatively simple coming of age tale of a hero on a quest, finding new friends along the way, while pursued by seemingly unstoppable supernatural foes, but its imbued with such warmth and feeling that it’s impossible not to be swept up in it. Much of this has to do with the emotion portrayed by Laika’s stop-motion animation. Despite the fantastical nature of most it’s characters, one of the best examples of Laika’s craft is Kameyo, an older lady in the village and friend of Kubo who positively jumps off the screen with life, each line in her face dancing with feeling.
That’s not to say that the film limits its scope in anyway, staging huge scenes and transitions rarely seen in stop motion animation, including one with an 18-foot tall stop motion puppet (most puppets used are 12 inches tall!).
As with classic fairy tales Kubo doesn’t shy away from darker issues, as it’s tinged with sadness & tragedy, but it’s never depressing. The darkness is only there to make the light stand out in contract and a rich vein of humour runs throughout the film. Matthew McConaughey’s cursed samurai Beetle is the main source of this and his interactions with Kubo’s magical monkey protector(Charlize Theron) never fail to raise a grin at the very least.
Also like the best Pixar movies, the humour in Kubo is aimed neither squarely at kinds or adults but comfortably straddles the two audiences, with boisterous laughter erupting from all ages during the screening I attended.
Nary a bum Note
With exquisite action, humour in it’s tale well told, the biggest problem with Kubo and the Two Strings is that when it ends after an hour and 41 minutes it feels too short, especially when compared with the rest of the bloated blockbusters that have graced theatres this summer. When then end comes it can feel a little abrupt but this is probably only due to just good the rest of the movie was.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a marvel, not just because of the amazing feat of human ingenuity that went into making it, by hand, one frame at a time, but because of the rich emotion of its story and perfect blend of happiness tinged with sadness.
Miss it at your peril.
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew McConaughey,George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, Rooney Mara
Directed by: Travis Knight
Official Site here