Movie Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

Details: About an hour and a half long.  Stars Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, and Matthew McConaughey.

Obviously, Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop motion animation movie. That means that in order to make the movie, they take miniatures and dolls and other small replicas and take a lot of pictures of the things in different positions, then they play those images in however many frames per second it takes to make it look like they are moving. It’s a time consuming yet visually beautiful method of making movies that you don’t see all that happen.

Kubo and the Two Strings has some of the best stop motion I’ve ever seen. I compare it to films like The Nightmare Before Christmas and greatly appreciate that, at least technically, the film is far smoother and visually pleasing than prior stop motion films that I’ve seen. While part of that is likely improvements in setting up and taking pictures of the miniatures, the other is probably the use of computer generated images sprinkled throughout the film. Appreciably, computer generated images are used in such a way that it meshes well with the stop motion animation.

In regards to the plot, the premise of the film is this: Kubo is the song of a celestial being and a great samurai. After being found by his evil, god like grandfather, Kubo must journey with some companions he meets along the way to find powerful weapons and armor that can defeat his grandfather.

It’s a very standard quest story that was clearly written to imitate or take inspiration from other classic fairy tales. This story is not based on any specific fairy tale. Based upon their names, this was written by two very not Japanese guys, despite the use of samurais and moon deities. Accordingly, you get the mismatch of various themes and characters reminiscent of other Asian stories you might have heard, but not entirely from any one story. Regardless, it’s a satisfactory story that had me choking up at certain parts. however, overall, it was just an okay story for me and plainly a vehicle for the gorgeous visuals achieved by the stop motion animation.

The voice actors were good. Charlize Theron has been fairly active the last few years and I have yet to see a performances from her I did not like. Parkinson is also great and McConaughey… is Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey is basically only able to play a guy from south Texas so it was weird hearing him voice a samurai beetle. I didn’t know he was in the film, but when you hear that south Texas timbre he has, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that is Matthew McConaughey.

Score: 6/10 A good children’s film with some aspects that border on adult, as many fairy tales do. Worth a watch for the visuals alone. I’d recommend it.

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