“Zootopia” might just have competition during award season from this flick.
“Kubo and the Two Strings” follows the story of the titular character. Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy who lives near a small village with his mother, who was forced to flee from her family because her marriage was viewed as a betrayal. In her escape, though, Kubo’s mother was injured, resulting in her dealing with memory loss.
Despite this, she still has magic powers and those powers were passed on to Kubo. The main conflict launching Kubo on his adventure begins when his mother is killed by her sisters. To protect himself from his mother’s family, Kubo is sent to find a magical suit of armor.
Going with a more traditional storytelling path, Laika Studios’ latest picture feels very much like a classic piece of folklore. There’s the main hero who is sent on a quest to recover special items with a group of friends who learns some lessons along the way. This certainly makes the movie feel quite simple, but at the same time, the film has such precise execution that this on screen folktale is still wonderfully compelling.
A big reason for this was the portrayal of themes the movie displays throughout Kubo’s whole quest. As the story unfolds, the film explores friendship, family, trust, love, loss and grief. Even more impressive, the filmmakers were able to find a balance between the heavier themes as well as the more lighthearted and humorous moments.
The only detriment to the film was that in between some of the sequences of finding the items on the quest, more time could have been spent toward development on the characters. That’s not to say the film is void in this aspect, it just could have used a bit more. With that said, though, the film’s storytelling and pacing are still superb.
Equally good in this picture were the characters. First and foremost, Kubo is a fantastic protagonist who has a lot of heart and bravery, but at times is still naive and is very much a child with a lot to learn. Helping this character come to life was Art Parkinson, who did a phenomenal job voice acting the lead character.
Stealing much of the show, though, was the character Monkey, played by Charlize Theron. The Monkey was originally a charm Kubo carried with him who was brought to life by his mother’s magic, and she’s easily the most memorable character in the picture. Her initial persona comes off as cunning and cold but as the film develops she’s shown to be rather passionate, caring and even witty.
The other character on Kubo’s quest was Beetle, a samurai warrior who was cursed into the form of a beetle. The character is often portrayed as the film’s comic relief, but fortunately, it’s not overdone. While being bumbling and a bit dull at points, Beetle is still a loyal and caring person through the film, providing one of the more lovable parts of the picture. However, Matthew McConaughey, who has a very distinct voice, seemed a bit out of place in some of the film’s scenes.
Without a doubt, the greatest part of “Kubo” was the gorgeous animation that brought this fantastical world to life. Like other movies from Laika, “Kubo” was created with stop motion animation, and it’s almost unbelievable how good this movie looked in this art style. From scenes of a ship sailing on the water to the movie’s multiple, awesome looking action sequences, “Kubo” is easily one of the more memorable visual experiences of the summer.
“Kubo and the Two Strings” has a few flaws here and there. The story could have used some ‘down time’ to allow for more development and McConaughey’s voice stood out a little too much. However, the camaraderie between the lead characters, the solid storytelling in the way of an old folklore, the exciting action and especially the movie’s heavier themes create one of the better animated movies of the year. High 4 out of 5.