Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest offering from Laika, the studio responsible for bringing us great stop-motion animated hits such as Coraline and Paranorman. The studio makes wonderful films that I’ve really enjoyed and when going into this I was curious to see what they could do with a story that is very different from what they have worked with before. Whenever you go into a film even from a studio you trust you can feel like there is a possibility of disappointment, but fear not with Kubo. This film met my expectations and exceeded them.
The story is set in a fictionalized version of feudal Japan with the stories of Samurai and adventures being the most popular form of entertainment. Kubo is the story of a young boy with one eye who cares for his sick mother and performs magic with origami for the town is quickly torn away from all of this when his evil aunts and grandfather return to retrieve his other eye. With the help of a talking monkey and a beetle he must retrieve the magical armor needed to defeat the evil side of his family.
This film’s plot is a simple structure of an adventure, but what makes it work is the wonderful writing, but also the brilliant performances from all of the voice actors. Charlize Theron is the voice of the monkey and is the strict authoritarian for the majority of the film and plays it as both hard, but loving in a brilliant way. Matthew McConaughey also provides the voice of The Beetle who is a loyal warrior and protector that is sometimes inept. He brings a sense of warmth and fun that the character needs making him one of the most memorable parts of the film. He acts as an emotional tie, but also as the comedic relief and it is balanced really well. The film juggles between action, comedy, heart, and humor constantly, but it never feels like it’s handling more than it can when it came down to the writing. Every character had a moment to shine, had distinct personality, and none of the ever felt unimportant. They all had a role to play and they were all handled exceptionally well.
The main thing that needs to be talked about is the incredible animation. The team at Laika have created an incredibly complicated and impressive method of combining new and old methods of stop-motion to create a visually enthralling spectacle of animation. I was floored by the level of detail and care given to this project, which comes at no surprise to me seeing how their previous films have also shown this level of artistry. The film also boasts the largest Stop Motion puppet standing at 18 feet tall. This is a testament to the work that they put into every frame of the film and it really does show.
This film is a continued achievement in the form of animation and storytelling. It may be seen as a family film and it can be enjoyed as one, but that doesn’t mean it panders to children. Like Coraline it does what it needs to do to tell the story and it isn’t afraid to tell it honestly. It’s an extremely well made film with a lot of thought put into every aspect. This is one of my favorite films of the year and I highly recommend that you go and see it when it is released this Friday, August 12th.