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Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest effort from stop motion animation giant Laika. It’s the first project helmed by its CEO. The set design, score, period detail and animation is wonderful, but far too often, this is a decent film masquerading as a great movie.

There are some inspired moments within the film. The story is simple, and has been told many times. Kubo is a young hero scarred by the feuding of the past, (literally and figuratively). He is a paper folder and a warrior, and is voiced beautifully by a pre-pubescent Art Parkinson, (watchers of Game of Thrones know that Parkinson, who is following in the footsteps of his TV older brother Isaac Hempstead-Wright, has certainly dropped a few octaves in the interim). There is a scene where Kubo zig-zags from a villian, and it cannot help but bring to mind Parkinson’s character of Rickon.

Aiding the hero, there is Charlize Theron as Kubo’s mother, (and as Mr. Monkey), as well as a very muted Matthew McConaughey as Beetle. Sadly, McConaughey doesn’t even throw in an “alright, alright, alright”, but mainly fits his role, (and the twist is fairly easy to predict). As villains, Rooney Mara plays a set of twins, and Ralph Fiennes adds to his growing list of villains as the Moon King.

The setting of Japan adds an allure, though really invites comparisons to Ghibli, (even though the styles are different, it’s probably not wise). Furthermore, the casting of mainly white actors (with the exception of George Takei) as Asain characters feels a little bit troublesome. It does not distract, but certainly could have been handled a little more gracefully.

One aspect of the film that stands out is the use of metaphor as well as repeated phrases. Kubo tells the audience members to pay attention at the start of the film. The observant viewer and listener is then generously treated to a measured experience throughout, which is growing to become increasingly rare.

[star v=3]