Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward reviews a cool kid’s movie, the magical epic of Kubo and the Two Strings…
The best kid’s films have some basis in the oldest stories. See Disney’s biggest successes for example. So what with a lot of the classic fairy tales having been filmed (or re-filmed in the case of Disney’s recent remakes), it’s always exciting when a new family film comes along based on something that isn’t princesses and palaces.
Enter Kubo and the Two Strings, a dazzling mix of stop motion and computer animation with a story set once upon a time in Japan. I don’t know which parts of the story are based on actual Japanese folklore and which are made up, but the movie has a rather authentic mythic feel even when it’s served with dollops of Disney-style, family-friendly goo.
Kubo is a boy with a rather emo fringe that hides his missing eye. This eye was stolen from him by his grandfather and the film opens with Kubo and his mother fleeing their wicked relatives during a storm. Cut forward a few years and Kubo lives with his mother in a cave just outside of town.
Kubo spends his time in the town below, entertaining people with violent samurai stories and acting them out with his enchanted origami. He brings the paper to life by playing a two-stringed, guitar-like instrument that is the source of his powers. So he’s having fun, until one day he accidentally stays out too late and his witch-like aunts wearing creepy masks come chasing him. His mother saves him by enchanting his robe to grow wings and carry him away.
He finds himself stuck with a talking monkey (Charlize Theron) who tells him the only way he can be safe is to seek the three powerful objects he told stories about: a sword, a breastplate and a helmet. Kubo finds himself on the quest of his dreams, but it doesn’t come without challenges. However with the help of his origami, his monkey and a new samurai friend cursed into a half-beetle creature (Matthew McConaughy), he gives it a go.
So as you can see, the plot has some quirky ideas. Who doesn’t love a story of a young boy going on an epic quest with talking animals, fighting monsters with cool weapons in rather impressive action scenes? For kids it’s going to feel like one big video game. It has its soft side too, with a stress on the importance of family and friendship in the face of hardship, that sort of thing.
There are some funny moments too, often at the expense of the monkey which is a slight shame because she’s an awesome character. The beetle samurai reminded me of Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove, which will be good for people who like loveable idiots. The animation isn’t sloppy either and may be the best thing to see this movie for. Slick, colourful and genuinely beautiful in places, this is a feast for the eyes. If you can adjust to Japanese characters speaking in American accents, you should enjoy it.