Laika Entertainment, LLC. doesn’t just make movies—they spend hundreds of hours making magic through the awe-inspiring art of stop-motion animation. Kubo and the Two Strings is Laika’s most recent release, and to say it is a cinematic treasure would be a tremendous understatement.
Laika, it must be remembered, are the studio responsible for navigating the wonder and horror of childhood in Coraline, casting a sympathetic light on ghouls and ghosts in ParaNorman and Corpse Bride, and celebrating differences instead of using them as a means of social elevation in The Box Trolls. Clearly then Laika is a studio with an established history of deep, delightful stories played out beautifully through stop-motion and Kubo does this proud tradition justice in emphatic style.
Each stage of Kubo’s journey effortlessly demonstrates the art of storytelling…
Kubo, like its predecessors, balances comedy and tragedy expertly, providing audiences plenty of laughs to help offset its more heart-wrenching moments. The voice-acting blends with the animation to create a visual masterpiece that stands as a reminder that older forms of animation pass the test of time with flying colors.
The story follows its titular character, Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson), who lives with his mother in a cave on the edge of their village. During the day, Kubo tells fantastical stories to the villagers of the brave swordsman Hanzo, based on the tales his mother shared about his father’s brave adventures. At night, however, Kubo must remain in his cave so as to not draw the attention of his grandfather, who seeks to steal Kubo’s remaining eye. This, of course, does not last and soon Kubo is thrown into an adventure with the help of Monkey (voiced by Charlize Theron) and Beetle (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) to stop his evil aunts (both voiced by Rooney Mara, who really brought the creepy factor up a good bit) and his grandfather the Moon King (voiced by Ralph Fiennes).
Moments…conveying an abundance of impressive wisdom as well as some of the superb one-liners, creates a perfect film…
Each stage of Kubo’s journey effortlessly demonstrates the art of storytelling, resulting in some wonderful comedy followed by very tense drama descending into heart-wrenching tragedy; an impressive feat for a stop motion film. Moments that can be personally connected with by the audience and quoted easily, conveying an abundance of impressive wisdom as well as some superb one-liners, creates a perfect film on many levels that audiences can seldom expect from many animated features.
The soundtrack adds further depth to Kubo and the Two Strings, featuring the shamisen that Kubo plays to channel his magic throughout the film. Each note contributes to the story, helping to set the scene its respective song is a part of. This, of course, only contributes to Kubo’s nature as an immersive film.
Simply put: this review could not possible do Kubo and the Two Strings justice. It is a cinematic experience that needs to be exactly that—experienced. Be forewarned, however, that this is the kind of movie that is guilty of leaving audiences feeling a sense of loss after seeing it—a dreaded, potent post-movie hangover. It is well worth it, however, and well worth the cost of tickets to see Kubo and the Two Strings. Now all that is left is to hope it’s released with Laika’s other films in a glorious collection.
By Phil Gorski