As a writer and as a person, I am very rarely rendered speechless. Kubo and the Two Strings, the latest stop-motion animation film from Laika studios (The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman, Coraline) left me in stunned, teary-eyed awe.
Kubo and the Two Strings is the simple, yet not so simple, saga of a young, one-eyed boy (Kubo, voiced by Game of Thrones’ Art Parkinson) living with his widowed mother in a small Japanese seaside village during a mythical version of the Tokugawa era. To earn a living, Kubo entertains his village with his storytelling and origami skills. The villagers adore and respect Kubo, and pester him daily for an ending to the riveting tale he brings to life for them.
One night, Kubo accidentally brings down the wrath of his mother’s two evil sisters (voiced by Rooney Mara) and sets the boy on a quest to find the magical armor worn by his father, a legendary samurai warrior. Accompanied by his guardian, Monkey (Charlize Theron), and a giant beetle (Matthew McConaughey), Kubo is challenged by the malice of the witches and the Moon King himself to settle a centuries-old vendetta.
To say any more about the plot would be venturing into spoiler territory, and this is one engaging tale you will want to be drawn into yourself. You will find yourself enchanted by Kubo, touched by the love he has for his ailing mother, and wanting to protect him as much as the villagers of his small town. All is not serious, however; the banter between Monkey and Beetle is funny enough to tickle the funnybone of small children, and clever enough to delight their parents.
Artistically, Laika has outdone themselves. Already noteworthy for their rejuvenation and brilliance of modern stop-motion animation, each frame of Kubo is astonishing, a masterpiece suitable for framing. Just when you think the imagery couldn’t be any more spectacular, the next jaw-dropping sequence occurs. Kubo’s magic with and the use of origami throughout the film is dazzling. His mother’s two sisters are sinister, bordering on terrifying (parents of very young children take note), as are many of the situations Kubo and his companions find himself in.
At one hour and forty-one minutes, Kubo is the longest stop-motion film to date, but it never loses its pacing or ever feels long. I found myself holding my breath many times during the film, beguiled by the storyline and simply stunned by the artwork. And as the overarching theme of the movie is love and family, I and my own accompanying family found ourselves experiencing some serious eye-leakage at the end of this truly wonderful film.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a big screen experience not to be missed.