Movie Review: Kubo and the Two Strings
“If you must blink, do it now.”
You might as well listen to Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson, the heroic protagonist who begins his stories with that sentence. Such an opening sentence will probably become the next “once upon a time” for further generations down the line, as it should! “Kubo and the Two Strings” is a visually masterful, if somewhat flawed, moviegoing experience that should dazzle fans of stop-motion animation worldwide.
Created by LAIKA Animation Studios, the studio responsible for films such as “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” and “The Boxtrolls,” the story seems straightforward on the surface, but goes into deeper territory than most animated films this year even dare.
Kubo is a storyteller who uses his magical origami to bring his stories to life. But he has to be back by sundown, or else his two evil aunts—both eerily voiced by Rooney Mara—will capture him, and bring him to his grandfather—voiced by Ralph Fiennes—for vengeful purposes. One night, he breaks from his normal routine to visit his father’s grave, a beautiful scene, only to be found by the dastardly duo. Through circumstances that won’t be spoiled here, Kubo is joined by a Monkey—voiced by Charlize Theron—and a man-sized Beetle—voiced by Matthew McConaughey—to find the pieces of armor that could bring his grandfather to justice once and for all.
From start to finish, this film is a visual masterpiece. Every inch of this film is filled with wonders and delights that could only be created with the magic of LAIKA. There are sequences where the stop motion animation and computer animated backgrounds blend seamlessly, to the point where you stop asking “how did they do that?” and just go along for the ride.
In regards to its narrative structure, however, only the amazing first act can live up to its spectacular visuals. The last time I’ve seen such grace and maturity expressed in an animated film was “Inside Out.” The second act goes more for a traditional adventure narrative, which is breathtaking fun, but the third act greatly disappoints. Without giving too much away, it tries to express its ideas on the power of storytelling, similar to “Life of Pi”, if you will, but does so in such a poor way that it almost derails what came before.
Thankfully, even in its disappointing third act, “Kubo and the Two Strings” is a wonderful visual experience that proves Disney and PIXAR aren’t the only animated companies casting a spell.