Kubo and the Two Strings is a Visually Inventive, Animated Delight

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Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Director: Travis Knight
Voice Actors: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaugheyRalph Fiennes

You can tell from the opening scene that the stop-motion animated film Kubo and the Strings is made by creators who love fairy tales and that the story is promising. The opening narration hooks you in right away, ” If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see no matter how unusual it may seem.”

The set up is actually straightforward: In ancient Japan, a young boy named Kubo goes on quest to find magical items in order to defeat the evil Moon King and learns some important lessons along the way. The story unfolds as a fun adventure tale and gradually reveals itself in unexpected ways.

Kubo is about the power of storytelling and why memories are stories in themselves. These are ideas are thoughtfully interwoven into the way the story is visually told and represented in characters. You see Kubo is a paper origami storyteller and a couple of people in his life have lost the memories that make them who they are.

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I liked a lot about Kubo. The voice acting is great. The character interplay is fun and there’s some exciting action sequences. But I can’t say I love it. It didn’t emotionally resonate with me even though the ending tries really hard to pull on the heartstrings. Perhaps too hard.

Kubo reminds me a little of the Japanese folklore Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which also examines what it means to be human, and I can’t help but to think the screenwriters are partly inspired by it. That’s not to say Kubo is derivative, I like how new fairy tales are rooted in or reference other works of art.

Kubo and the Two Strings isn’t a masterpiece. However, it does deserve to find a larger audience who are open minded to non-Disney/Pixar animated movies. The story, the animation & voice acting is on par with a really good Pixar film and appeals to both kids and grown ups.

Rating: ★★★½ stars out of five.

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