Kubo and the Two Strings

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.

 

Director: Travis Knight

Starring: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei

Rated: PG (thematic elements, scary images, action and peril)

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

By Cole Schneider

This wasn’t a great summer for cinemas as we saw a lot of remakes and sequels that hovered between cheap and mediocre, but now that school is back in session we’re treated with a kid’s movie far more masterful than any review I’ve written in months. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is easily the best animated film of the year so far, and is one of the year’s best regardless of genre or audience. It’s breathtaking visuals are enough to recommend on their own terms, but are surpassed by “Kubo’s” emotional depth, clarity, and conviction.

An adventure film, “Kubo” follows the kind, quiet titular boy’s journey after he accidentally summons a treacherous presence from his past. He has help in this magical journey from a monkey and a beetle, but it is his latent powers, conjured by his shamisen, that always bubble up with wonder and excitement. Kubo battles an array of spirits, monsters, and gods in order to restore order to his family and his community, and along the way will teach us lessons about grace, forgiveness, and restoration that are wholly familiar—most films carry these messages, especially kid’s films—but whose presentation is unique and even jarring because of its extreme sincerity and belief in in that message.

Where most movies carrying a message like this feel uninspired and stale, “Kubo” feels motivated and energetic, and it shows itself in its final scenes to be a film of deep warmth with a passionate soul projecting its reel tremendous authenticity. Add in a beautiful score, fun plot, and some pleasant comedy and “Kubo” is a must-see for all ages (and a must-must-see for kids).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

By Matt Greene

“If you must blink, do it now.” So fittingly opens the stop-motion fantasy Kubo and the Two Strings, against a black screen soon to be filled with a 90+ minute roller coaster of cinematic emotions. Excitement (giant skeleton monsters), humor (sentient origami), terror (Shining-like twin sisters), romance (cross-species), and tears (the danger of family love) serenade every surprising moment of this Imaginative tale. Even with character conveniences and exposition, commonplace in the fantasy genre, Kubo is masterful filmmaking that far exceeds typical family-friendly animated features, or most others for that matter.

Unlike most of what we get in theaters these days, Kubo has the audacity to be something that exists outside of our cultural subconscious. Its originality and tone give it the potential to have a Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-esque effect on audience. It’s the story of a boy with a life-giving guitar and a mysterious past, forced upon an adventure with a beetle-man samurai (McConaughey) and a wonderfully wry talking monkey (Theron). Under its character-based humor and blistering action, it makes powerfully pointed statements about the inevitability of death, and love’s ability to almost musically unite people in overcoming fear.

Oh, and did I mention that the animation is perfectly gorgeous in every single way? Laika Studios (Coraline, Paranorman) have always matched their stunningly groundbreaking animation with stories that are among the best in kid’s entertainment, and Kubo may be their best yet. With sweeping landscapes punctuated by seemingly innocuous little details filling their cinematic world of magic and adventure, it may be about time we start seeing Laika as the next Pixar. Kubo is the perfect respite from the dirge of summer franchises.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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