With a stunningly lavish world and a fascinating premise, Kubo and the Two Strings is a highly satisfying and entertaining adventure.
Animation studio Laika has delivered its crowning achievement that ranks as one of the year’s top films. Not just on the animation front, but all genres.
While he’s not caring for his sickly mother, Kubo (Art Parkinson) is out entertaining crowds at a nearby village. His talent isn’t just from his skill at playing a guitar, but with the origami he brings to life by strumming along.
But Kubo’s gift is highly sought after by The Moon King (Ralph Fiennes, Spectre), who covets Kubo’s remaining eye. In order to stop The Moon King and his minions The Sisters (Rooney Mara), Kubo must recover a powerful, magical suit of armor.
The film plays out like a classic quest adventure with a new and dangerous obstacle at every turn. Fortunately, Kubo gets some help along the way. The noble and protective Monkey (Charlize Theron) is a final gift from his mother. One of Kubo’s origami takes a life of its own and serves as his guard. The final member of their party is a cursed samurai with a hazy memory named Beetle (Matthew McConaughey, The Wolf of Wall Street).
If there’s a knock on the film it’s the disappointing lack of diversity with the principal cast. Yes, George Takei is part of the cast, but only as a fringe supporting character. That’s especially damning as Kubo solely features Asian characters. Surely there are five Asian actors in Hollywood capable of voicing these characters just as well.
That’s not a knock on the assembled voice talent. They largely do fine work even if McConaughey’s Southern twang occasionally pops out.
With so many animators going the CGI route, it’s hard not to give Laika extra credit for its more grueling stop motion approach. Laika continues to improve on the technique and Kubo marks the studio’s most ambitious undertaking yet.
Director Travis Knight is up to the task of handling the massive action sequences that flow seamlessly without the cruder stop and go look of some stop motion pieces. The film features rich, inviting colors that lend a warmth, wide open feel to Kubo’s world.
What stands out most with Kubo is the boundless creativity. Just when it seems like the film has hit its high point, the next big action sequence tops it. Considering the scope of the project and months, this is an admirably smooth accomplishment.
The inspired character designs are fantastic with a lot of personality. Kubo’s characters don’t come across like slightly altered takes on other adventure stars, which helps make the experience feel completely fresh.
Kubo and the Two Strings fully delivers on its potential to craft a beautifully told and original adventure. It’s an animation standout that’s fully enthralling for the entire family.