Kubo and the Two Strings

August 20, 2016 at 10:02 am | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ½

I knew little of what to expect when I attended this, the newest animated film by Laika Entertainment.  They are a small production company, known for having made only 3 films (before this one) since their creation in 2005 by Nike’s co-founder Phil Knight. Those films all use stop-motion puppet animation combined with CGI and each one of them (“Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” and “The Boxtrolls”) are a delight. This one, however, is a small wonder. I cannot remember the last time I saw an animated movie more beautiful than this one, though I suspect it must have been years. I really was in awe watching scene after scene unfold. While it is worth noting that nobody has yet come close to the complexity of emotions in a children’s film that Pixar has managed in masterpieces like “Inside Out,” their animation has become staid and safe; nothing “wows” me in the visuals of a Pixar film like it used to. What Laika is doing, by comparison, is fresh and adventurous. The company is so small that this film was directed and produced by the current CEO of Laika, Travis Knight (son of Phil). That might sound like the recipe for a disaster but Knight has managed to make their best film yet. I could not recommend this movie enough, based just on the visuals. However, it also has a really lovely story that is full of drama, humor, action & peril, grace and genuine poetry. Kubo is the young son of a deceased samurai who must embark on a perilous journey aided only by his mother’s magic. Along the way, there is music, magical origami, talking animals, a fearsome ocean battle and a truly sinister set of twin sisters. The voice actors include Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, a brief cameo by George Takei (uttering his signature line “oh my!”), and Art Parkinson (known mainly as the unfortunate Rickon from “Game of Thrones) in the title role. This is a beautiful story with a beautiful message told beautifully.

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