KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS:
ANOTHER WIN FOR LAIKA ANIMATION, WITH STELLAR STOP-MOTION ANIMATION, AND EQUALLY STRONG CHARACTERS!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
Monkey, Kubo, and Beetle in Kubo and the Two Strings
Laika Animation, the stop-motion animation studio behind Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls strikes again with their fourth animated feature, Kubo and the Two Strings. After closer evaluation and comparing the film to Laika’s previous movies, I can gladly say this might very well be the best film the studio has made so far, YES, even better than Coraline.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the films they produced, but besides Finding Dory, Kubo was taken much more serious than all the other animated films that came out this summer. Yes, it does have comedy in it, but this movie is taken seriously very often and it’s fueled on characters’ emotions and carries a powerful message about life and death and it’s executed beautifully through the animation, story, and characters.
Laika might very well be the stop-motion equivalent to Pixar or Studio Ghibli, while their films have a very familiar tone resembling Tim Burton’s animation, the characters and writing have a Pixar feel to them. I’m serious, I cared for the characters in Kubo a lot more than several characters from more mature movies I’ve been watching lately, and these are just clay puppets.
Set in ancient Japan, the film follows a young boy named Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson-Game of Thrones, Dracula Untold, San Andreas) who lives with his ill mother (voiced by Charlize Theron-The Cider House Rules, The Huntsman franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road) in a cave in the mountains. Every day he goes to a village to tell stories using pieces of paper that magically form into origami that can move under music that he plays on his shamisen.
One day, he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which came down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. While on the run, Kubo befriends a wise monkey (also voiced by Theron) and a man/beetle hybrid named Beetle (voiced by Matthew McConaughey-Dazed and Confused, Mud, Interstellar) who accompany him on his quest to find the ancient artifacts that can send the spirit back to where it came from before Kubo’s world as he knows it will be no more.
Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a character-driven visual marvel, the animation is gorgeous especially in 3D, the characters are well-developed and extremely likable, the heart and emotion are spot on, and it manages to squeeze him some decent comedy. Yes, a movie involving a boy and a talking monkey on a quest, and I could take that seriously, that’s a sign of a great flick.
Kubo is a strong protagonist character and in my opinion one of the best kid characters I’ve ever seen in a movie or TV show, he’s obviously busy on his quest but he has plenty of time to fool around and act like a real kid. In a lot of children’s films you can tell that a child actor is only acting, luckily Art puts a lot of effort in his performance when voicing Kubo.
Charlize Theron is great as Monkey and I appreciate that they didn’t try to make her funny, usually in movies (especially animated family films) they always try to make talking monkeys funny, I’m glad they didn’t, it would have been an extremely obvious cliché if they went that direction. Beetle on the other hand is where most of the comic relief comes from and Matthew McConaughey delivers it very well, a man who was cursed with a beetle body and has complete amnesia, naturally this is our funny guy on the team.
I praise Kubo and the Two Strings for being a kids’ movie that doesn’t talk down to children, it’s smart, thrilling, and fun for anyone. A lot of animated movies feel like they have to be loud and dumb to entertain kids, this one thankfully doesn’t try to be hip for the young crowd and instead focuses on thoughtful storytelling and strong characters set to animation that you can tell the animators put all their work and heart into it.
Really, what more can I say about it? It has everything that I personally think makes a great movie, and this is a great movie. Don’t take the kids to Ice Age: Collision Course, instead why not take them to a gorgeously animated, smartly written, and character driven family film with a strong message about death.
Oh and don’t mess with the Monkey!