You know, in the five years I have been reviewing anything especially animation, I have never touch upon anything from Laika in general in the form of a review and what makes Laika special as an animation studio today is they are the only few people in animation that dabble in stop-motion and is also successor to another stop-motion studio, Will Vinton Studios (The guys that did the California Raisins specials and that classic (?) Eddie Murphy sitcoms The PJs…….*crickets*….) and while they have been doing contract work at first, they formed as a studio in 2009 with their first feature Coraline.
Their catalog of their own films also feature ParaNorman in 2012 and The Boxtrolls in 2014. Now for the majority of their films, they have made some great gems and mostly OK movies. ParaNorman being my favorite, Coraline was pretty good and The Boxtrolls was a decent flick. They have never released a movie that was particularly bad.
With this new one called Kubo and the Two Strings, let’s find out about that one.
Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town but his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.
Yeah, when I said Laika has never made a bad movie……..that statement is still true after this one.
The scale on this story reminds us of many adventurous animated tales back in the days when Don Bluth made good animated films or basically animated movies that doesn’t rely on whatever trends or memes or stupid tropes that are present in other animated movies. *coughBlueSkyIlluiminationDreamworkscough*
The movie steps into Japanese folklore and the scenery, moments and backgrounds all have that ancient vibe to it and it actually felt like you are immersed into this world and the quest itself is an interesting feat with Kubo wanting to know more about the mystery of his father and making sure the Moon King don’t get his other eye.
Did I mention that eye part is mostly fucked up? No, really, it is. Your grandpa the Moon KING took YOUR LEFT EYE!!!! Then again, I hear relatives do much w– Actually, no, I don’t know whose grandpa would do shit like that or maybe I do. Either way, hot damn! The movie also has some great pacing and timing as the story does move along as it goes. Hell, once into an hour, you felt like it was 30 minutes ago and it works. I like that the pacing doesn’t feel like it’s slowing down with any unnecessary filler. We do get into these characters and instantly get attached to what’s going on there.
Oh, and the characterization and bonding among Kubo, Monkey and Beetle is all parts of heartwarming, humorous and all types of awesome and also have that separately as well. I especially like the back and forth with Monkey and Beetle.
The animation is stellar from beginning to end on this but that’s not a new thing to Laika as they have always made stellar work on their stop-motion animation and not to mention the 2D ending sequence was quite a eye-catching sight, accompanied by the ending song “My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor.
The voice acting is also incredible from all around the board but to be fair, when you have Charlize Theron & Matthew McConaughey as your leads Monkey and Beetle, respectively, it’s a guarantee you’ll get some great performances from them and also Art Parkinson as Kubo was great as well. No, I still don’t watch Game of Thrones (*gets rock thrown at him* OW!) but he made a great performance on here.
FINAL VERDICT: There’s no doubt about it. To me, this is Laika’s best movie to date, one of the best summer movies this year, one of the best animated movies this year and also……one of the best MOVIES of 2016. Period. An adventurous and ambitious tale with a steady balance of misery and triumph along with stellar animation that everyone of all ages should go out and see. In the theaters. Like right now. No, really, people should see this movie.
And for that, this is getting the highest of all recommendations…..
The KSA – King Seal of Approval!
That and it makes a good end to the letdown of summer movies this year.
I’m MAK2.0 aka The Blue Hybrid, bringing all the strings in one…shimasen.
KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS – courtesy of Focus Features / Laika