Review: ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ Strikes A Beautiful Melody

Laika Entertainment invites families to go an adventure with Kubo and the Two Strings this weekend. This stop-motion animated film is directed by first-time director, CEO Travis Knight. Laika has been responsible for a multitude of stop-animation films, Coraline, ParaNorman, and the Boxtrolls. All of which are impeccable works of art as they are both visually stunning and full of rich characters. Kubo and the Two Strings is a marvel full of jaw-dropping action sequences and animation making it one of the most beautiful films of the year.

Kubo immediately grabs the audience’s attention with one of the more violent animated water sequences I can remember. Kubo and his mom are tossed about as he crosses the sea. The ship is capsized, but they both survive and wash up onto the shore. His mother sustains significant injuries to the head which affect her memory. Kubo helps his mother by playing a three-stringed Japanese instrument known as a shamisen in the village for tips.We quickly realize that this shamisen is no ordinary instrument, it possesses the magical powers to move origami paper and have it form any shape Kubo wants.

Kubo-2The wonder of this power quickly subsides when evil forces descend upon Kubo’s location. These forces are after Kubo’s magic, which radiates from his one good eye, and they won’t stop until it’s in their possession. His mother tries valiantly to fend them off, but Kubo is left alone to begin a quest with the help of a monkey (Charlize Theron) and a beetle (Matthew McConaughey).

One of the many strengths of this film is Marc Haimes, Chris Butler, and Shannon Tindle’s screenplay. Butler is best known for directing the film Paranorman. Tindle gained notoriety while working on character design during the filming of Coraline. Haimes first became relevant as a producer on Men In Black II. So how could this odd pairing of people result in a well-crafted story being produced? Butler’s experience creating a storyline with heart certainly helps things along mightily; Tindle’s background in character design aided the group in writing characters that were rich and descriptive; Haimes has a background in action and was able to contribute to the story by assisting in weaving elements of action throughout the film.

The quality of the animation in each scene is perfect. Laika has always made sure each character is animated down to the tinest of details, whether it’s a monster in Paranorman or the title character in Coraline. In Kubo and the Two Strings, the animation seems to have evolved even further. Using both stop-motion animation and computers to enhance each image on the screen, the combination composes some breathtaking shots. The perfect example of this is the opening sequence of the film.

Fantastic animation and a well-balanced story translate into a film that is both visually and intellectually pleasing. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.