Synopsis: A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.
Laika Entertainment has long been one of my favorite film producers not just because of their unique style of stop motion animation but their willingness to take chances on very unique story telling ideas like Coraline, Paranorman, Boxtrolls and now Kubo and the Two Strings continues that track record with beautiful results. There is so much to love about this movie, the animation, story, music, and performances. It’s rare that I go into a movie with average expectations and come out of it just completely wowed and in awe. A wonderful creative movie that’s great for the whole family. So let’s dive in to the good stuff!
The story is incredible in how it sets you up at first with a woman fleeing a tidal wave with her child, leaving you wondering and wanting more to see what it all meant and where does the tale go from there. It does such a great job of showing the heart and warmth that’s present throughout the entire film. From the very beginning you see how close knit the village is and how much they adore Kubo for his amazing paper magic abilities and storytelling. You also see how close he is with his mother and how his father gave his life to save both of them and you soon come to learn that they are hiding from Kubo’s grandfather the Moon King. Eventually they are found by him and his evil aunts who are I got to say pretty scary and intimidating. This sends Kubo on an adventure to find his father’s armor and sword to help him defeat his grandfather. The great sense of adventure and excitement you get from this movie is awesome, I immediately fell in love with all the heroes and are instantly terrified of the villains the minute they come on screen this is accomplished so well by the amazing animation and great voice acting. The animation of the characters faces look so expressive and genuine, you instantly see the love or annoyance in Monkey’s face or the sheer joy or fear in Kubo’s face. Even though Kubo’s lost most of his real family there’s a great sense of family that you get between Monkey, Beetle, and Kubo that fills you up with warm feelings. This especially goes a long way during some of the down time between the exciting action beats of the movie when they are just hanging around on the boat. That’s essentially what elevates this movie for me personally, it is that heart and connection you develop with the characters so seamlessly particularly in a movie that moves at a brisk pace to fit everything in and still manages to find time to fit these small but very important moments in them.
As I mentioned the stop motion animation done by Laika is incredible, it looks so fluid and beautiful. The level of detail on each character model and even the backgrounds is amazing! You could take still shots of each scene and stare at it forever just trying to take it all in. The movie takes you to so many great locations too to showcase the wide variety of environments they could do like an old Japanese village, snow plains, caves, the ocean etc. I can’t forget about the incredible soundtrack to this movie, composed by Dario Marianelli. The score perfectly adds the right mood to every moment especially the more emotional moments I really felt the presence of the movies score. What stole the show for me was whenever Kubo used his shamisen, (the guitar/banjo looking instrument) the music that he plays on that instrument sounds so amazing and really gets you pumped up for what’s happening on screen.
There are however a few nitpicks I have with this movie, although nothing that really impacts the movie. The first being it can be a little dark and creepy at times especially whenever the Sisters appear so it might be little much for the really young kids. The other complaint is really a nitpick but the white washing of the voice cast in a movie with all Japanese characters. This ones not that big of a deal as I’m always of the mind that you cast the best actors for the role based on their talents regardless of race or whatever, but it would have been nice to see some more Asian-American actors get a chance, aside from George Takei in a small role, considering how little Asians are represented in Hollywood. In the end though the voice acting was so great all across the board that I really don’t care too much.
Kubo and the Two Strings is an amazing movie, easily in my top three of the year so far. The movie is very original and creative but also is very deep in the themes that it explores of family, humanity, death and the afterlife just to name a few. It almost seems like an adult movie that’s disguised as a kid’s movie which means it’s a great time for every one of all ages. If nothing else you should go see this movie for the beautiful visuals because this movie will blow you away. Believe me you must see this movie. Thank you for reading this and let me know what you thought about Kubo and the Two Strings. Also what has been your favorite stop motion animated movie up to this point? Let me know in the comments!
Should You See It: Yes!
Theater Worthy: Yes!
Final Grade: A