Director: Travis Knight
Run Time: 1h 41m
Be bold. Be brave. Be epic.
Kubo (Art Parkinson) lives in a cave outside of a small Japanese village with his mother. Every day he goes down to the village to tell stories with his magic shamisen — three-stringed Japanese guitar-like instrument — and flying origami. He has no problems as long as he’s home by sundown. One day he doesn’t make it out of the village in time and a pair of evil spirits (Rooney Mara) finds him. The only way to defeat these spirits, and their father the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), is to find a magic suit of armor that belonged to his late father. His only companions are Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey). Kubo’s quest takes him on a treacherous journey to recover the three pieces of armor before the spirits catch up to him and force him to join them.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a beautiful film. The stop-motion animation is exquisitely executed. The scenery and backdrops are absolutely stunning. Visually, this is more of a fine art piece than a children’s movie.
Perhaps therein lies the problem. I’m not sure I would consider this a children’s movie. Every child in the theater was utterly bored after a short time. The adults with them were entranced and engaged, but had trouble constantly reminding their young ones to shush and sit still. It’s true that Laika isn’t Disney so maybe they just haven’t found that balance between beauty and child-friendly storylines. Personally, I enjoyed the story. But I’m not the target audience.
Almost as beautiful as the visuals: the music. Kubo creates some masterpieces on his shamisen, and the Japanese influence is infused in all of the music we hear throughout Kubo’s adventure. As wonderful as it all was, I really enjoyed watching the closing credits listening to Regina Spektor perform her rendition of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. Anytime a movie can introduce a younger generation to iconic and classic songs, I am a fan.
I absolutely loved the trio of characters in Kubo. Kubo is an inspiring little hero and he has some great guardians. Monkey is a no-nonsense warrior at heart who will do everything she can to motivate Kubo to stay on task and survive. She knows the risks in staying put too long or not taking the quest seriously. So her patience is tested when they meet Beetle. Beetle was once a warrior too, but his memory is a little shaky and his focus isn’t as sharp as Monkey’s. Despite their differences, the three make a great team and their bond only grows stronger.
My biggest complaint for Kubo has everything to do with the fate of the Moon King and where we leave him by the end. It’s probably rooted in the fact that Kubo may or may not be a children’s movie; I’m not sure I agree with having to tie things up in a certain way to make sure the kids are happy. I disagree with the ending we find here but you may feel differently once you see the film for yourself.
I think older kids and the young at heart will love Kubo and the Two Strings like I did. Little ones? Not so much. It could be a safe rental in the future in case they get bored and move on to another activity.
Honestly, Kubo had more similarities to The Book of Life in my opinion. Celebrating the Mexican culture, Manolo is our hero. He has another quest of three, but he is conquering fears instead of finding armor. He also has a guitar and uses his music on his journey. But his goal is to win the heart of his beloved Maria.