Kubo and the Two Strings starts with the line “If you must blink, do it now” and it is good advice. The first act of the movie will hold anyone’s attention. The sequence that starts the movie, showing Kubo’s Mother protecting her injured son, is just the beginning of a thrilling set-up for the quest the young boy must go on.
What will be apparent from the beginning of the movie is how different Kubo is. The story is original, mixing drama, comedy and fantasy perfectly. Watching as Kubo tells his story, making paper literally come to life with an adoring crowd, is as exciting as when the hero needs to fight giant enchanted skeletons or his evil aunts.
Another striking element of the movie is how “mature” it is. It is definitely a kids movie but never panders. It approaches the story-telling intelligently, letting the audience fill in the gaps and make the leaps in the narrative. This mature approach also extends to the action, with many of those scenes being on the scarier-side. The two aunts are menacing from the moment they show, also prompting the quest at the center of the movie.
The quest is a good one, with Kubo having to search for three pieces of enchanted armour. It is a pretty standard quest-tale, with the hero being helped by a rag-tag team, this one including a cranky talking monkey and an amnesiac cursed beetle-samurai. If it sounds strange, it is, but also fits well into the overall movie, with some nice twists to the third act.
With a cast this strange, the voices have to match the characters and luckily they do. Art Parkinson does a great job of holding together the emotion needed to play Kubo but it is the monkey, played by Charlize Theron and the samurai-beetle played by Matthew McConaughey, who steal the show. Their voices compliment their characters well, balancing the drama and comedy perfectly. Add to this, rent-a-villain Ralph Fiennes as the Moon-King and you have a stellar-cast to fill out the roles.
The movie uses these characters and their great voice-actors to good effect. What makes Kubo so effective is the heartfelt tale at it’s center. The action is very good and the quest is an interesting one but the movie never strays too far from the emotional story between Kubo and his Mother. It is a tale which will bring a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye.
It also helps that the animation isn’t CGI. The computer-generated effects have come very far and movies like Toy Story have used it to tell emotional stories but the use of stop-motion animation here adds another level. It brings the characters to life in such a unique way and somehow makes their expressions more emotion-filled, rather than some of the dead, lifelessness that CGI can often deliver.
Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is an intelligent, interesting and exciting animated movie which offers a unique tale, told with real emotion. The voice cast do an excellent job, bringing the eclectic and interesting characters to life. Above all, it is an engaging film which will keep you captivated, no matter what age.
Rating – 4
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