Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy who lost his eye when he was a baby and lives with his mother by the sea, high above the village. He never met his father but has heard many stories of the mighty Hanzo and tells stories to the villagers using his shemisen (guitar-like instrument) about his battles with the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes). Kubo is always warned not to stay out after dark, but one night he is late getting home and his aunts (Rooney Mara) attack him, but his mother saves him by sending him far far away with the magic of the shemisen. When Kubo awakes, he is met by a monkey (Charlize Theron) who tells him that they must find the three legendary pieces of Hanzo suit in order to defeat the evil spirit of the moon king.
The story of Kubo and the Two Strings is quite extraordinary and unique, but a little hard to follow at the same time. The story has many metaphors, dreams, and events that are exaggerated based on the mind of a young boy, but it’s hard to tell sometimes what is real and what is imaginary. The fact that the movie is beautifully animated with stop-motion capture from the same people who did The Box Trolls, ParaNorman, and Coraline makes up for the strangeness of the story. I know I keep mentioning the story, however, the fact that it is a little hard to follow doesn’t make it a bad story. I believe that a second view will make the story pop and allow everything to make sense, as it did for me the 2nd time I saw it.
The characters are also a strong aspect of this film. Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) is dumb but very funny. He reminds me of Krunk from The Emperor’s New Groove. Monkey is also quite a treat because she is both sarcastic and caring all at the same time. The bad guys in the movie are something you would find straight out of a video game and fit the story perfectly, and Kubo himself is a flawed child with a horrible past and a huge heart. Kubo is the “little engine that could” and he won’t stop until he is able to connect with his father.
I don’t want to say that Kubo is an acquired taste because it won’t take long before you will know if you are enjoying the film, however, it will take a 2nd or 3rd view to fully understand what you are watching and that I believe is the sign of something deep and multilayered. Kubo and the Two Strings is something special and tragic, and will have something to offer everyone who watches it. It has drama, comedy, action and adventure. It has fantasy, vibrant colors and multi-dimensional characters. I believe that the style of animation chosen for this movie will help it stand out for many years to come. Big thumbs up from me! Co-starring the voices of Brenda Vaccaro, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, George Takei, Meyrick Murphy, and Minae Noji.
8/10 Stars – Even though the story might need several viewings to fully grasp, Kubo and the Two Strings has great stop-motion animation and is full of characters with plenty of depth.