Starring: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey
Director: Travis Knight
Running Time: 101 mins
Kubo And The Two Strings is an American film about a young boy who embarks on an epic quest to find a series of pieces that complete a set of armour used by his late father in order to help him defeat an evil spirit.
Modern animations are on a real roll at the moment, consistently providing imaginative, exciting and beautiful tales for all to enjoy. Kubo And The Two Strings is yet another example of the quality of the genre at the moment. Although not the best animation of the year, nor the best from Laika, it’s a wonderful watch, with stunning stop-motion animation, great performances, and a charming sense of adventure from start to finish.
There’s a lot to love about this film, but I have to start with its real stand-out feature: the animation. To put it simply, the stop-motion is exceptional to look at. Even going into this film knowing it’s all stop-motion, I was still convinced that it was a CGI movie, proving just how impressive the stop-motion is. It’s a far cry from the days of Wallace And Gromit, and Laika do some truly amazing things with origami-style stop-motion, things that I still can’t really comprehend how they were achieved.
The animation isn’t just an exceptional achievement, it’s a major player in the story itself. Set in classical Japan, the fact that all of the characters and landscapes look as if they’re made of origami is truly brilliant. Kubo himself is a storyteller who uses origami to bring his tales to life, and the way that that complements Laika’s animation style was amazing to see.
Another great part of this film was the voice performances. Providing a lot of the levity and laughs from what is quite a dramatic story, Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron and particularly Matthew McConaughey do a great job. Parkinson, only 14 years old, gives a brilliantly well-held performance as Kubo, whilst Theron adds some fantastic deadpan humour as the monkey whose mission it is to protect and guide Kubo on his quest.
However, the big stand-out was Matthew McConaughey. I’ve never seen or heard him so lively and funny in a movie, despite his charismatic off-screen persona, but he’s absolutely brilliant throughout, providing a healthy proportion of the film’s best laughs as the beetle samurai who joins Kubo and Monkey, and adding yet more colour to the film’s wonderful atmosphere.
If there is one thing that I didn’t love about this film, then it’s the story. Laika’s films have always been amazingly imaginative, both in their visuals and their storytelling, but Kubo And The Two Strings just feels a lot more Disneyfied to me. The sense of adventure lifts the otherwise predictable quest story well, but the meat of the film is in the emotional story about Kubo’s tortured family, and the effect that has on him too.
In truth, that never packs much of a punch, and often feels far too much like a Disney orphan story to be a truly unique and powerful personal backstory. This film has absolutely nothing on Laika’s emotionally tormenting and devastating horror-fantasy Coraline, and whenever it wants to be melancholy and dark, it just doesn’t work as well as I would have liked, which, in tandem with the general overplayed quest plot, was a disappointment for me.
Overall, however, I really enjoyed Kubo And The Two Strings. It’s not Laika’s best work, and there are better animations out at the moment, but it’s an excellent display of the visual ingenuity of both the studio and the modern animation genre, characterised by a great sense of adventure and some brilliant voice performances, so that’s why it gets a 7.5 from me.