Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) Review

For the past few months alone, 2016 proves to be a banner year for Hollywood animated feature with well-received hits such as Zootopia and Finding Dory. Whereas computer-generated animation is more dominant these days, Kubo and the Two Strings favours the art of stop-motion animation. And what a visual beauty the movie turns out to be! After all, Kubo and the Two Strings is made by Laika, the Oregon-based studio behind three acclaimed stop-motion animated hits: Coraline (2009), Paranorman (2012) and The Boxtrolls (2014).

Set a long time ago in ancient Japan, Kubo and the Two Strings tells a story about a brave one-eyed boy named Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson), who earn a living by telling stories to the village folks using his guitar and magical origami props. His overprotective mother, in the meantime, warns him not to stay out after dark because she fears Kubo’s evil grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) might find him and claims his other eye. When Kubo inadvertently breaks the rule one night, he is attacked by his two aunts, The Sisters (Rooney Mara). But luckily, his mother arrives just in time to save him by using her remaining magical powers. After Kubo wakes up the following morning, he finds himself surrounded by a talking female Monkey (Charlize Theron). The Monkey, who happens to be Kubo’s guardian, tells her that the only way to defend himself against the Moon King is to locate three missing artefacts: his father’s sword, helmet and armour. As Kubo and the Monkey embark on a long journey, they soon join by an oversized man-beetle (Matthew McConaughey).

For their studio’s fourth feature, Laika president and CEO Travis Knight made his directorial debut in Kubo and the Two Strings. With the help of his talented animators, every stop-motion animation is painstakingly created frame by frame to vivid perfection. No doubt it was visually stunning and definitely a must-see on the big screen to immerse on its meticulous technical prowess.

The voice cast is just as good. Art Parkinson delivers a spirited performance voicing Kubo. Charlize Theron exudes motherly warmth with a delightful touch of dry wit to her role as Monkey. Matthew McConaughey provides an excellent comic relief as Beetle, while Rooney Mara is creepy enough playing a dual role as The Sisters. Even those with little screen time including Ralph Fiennes’ the Moon King as well as George Takei’s Hosato, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s Hashi and Brenda Vaccaro’s Kameyo who both play the villagers, manage to make a lasting impression with their respective roles.

However, Marc Haimes and Chris Butler’s screenplay is quite a letdown. For the supposedly fascinating story that combines the element of magic, fantasy and Japanese mythology, Kubo and the Two Strings suffers from a glacial pace that bound to test one’s patience. Despite the shortcoming, Kubo and the Two Strings remains a stunning piece of work for the stop-motion animation alone.

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