Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

brooke I want to start by saying that Kubo and the Two Strings is adorable, fun, and deep.
With themes that include family feuds and the line between reality and fantasy, this movie aims high and, for the most part, hits its targets

casey Laika is better than Pixar. That’s right, I said it: come at me! Alright, that may be a slight overstatement, but the stop-motion studio that also produced Coraline, Paranorman, and Boxtrolls, is doing some of the most interesting animated work currently out there.

brooke Dang, right out of the gate…

casey Kubo might be their best yet, retaining the off-kilter sense of humor of their previous work while introducing a brighter pallet, more varied settings, and tapping into a wonderfully inventive mythology to do it.

brooke Laika is a great production company and deserves a lot of attention for the films it has produced so far, including this one.
Kubo and the Two Strings takes place in a small town in what appears to be the magical realism version of Japan. Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) lives with his mother, a great storyteller with memory problems, and spends his days on the streets retelling her stories to music, through which he can magically create amazing origami figures that act them out as he tells them. His favorite tale is about evil Moon King and the samurai warrior Hanzo. But after Kubo breaks one of his mother’s rules, he learns that it’s more than just a story, and soon finds himself on a quest to find Hanzo’s armor to protect himself against the Moon King, aided by a talking monkey named Monkey (Charlize Theron), a samurai man/beetle named Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), and the magic origami he creates through his music.

casey Meanwhile he’s hunted by the Moon King’s twin henchwomen, who are also his aunts (played by Rooney Mara). With their identical smirking masks, they are legitimately creepy and and very threatening in their own right. Eventually everything culminates in a final showdown with the Moon King, where, without spoiling anything, the movie ends on an unexpectedly graceful note that I found downright touching and really made Kubo something special.

brooke It’s so unlike other hero’s journey films in the last ten minutes or so.

casey And the journey to that point is fun and beautiful to look at, whether Kubo and company are trudging through an arctic wasteland, traversing a stormy sea, or fighting a giant skeleton. The sheer variety in Kubo is even more impressive given the low-tech animation style.

brooke It’s beautiful in the way so many hand-crafted things are. I feel the same way about Laika’s other productions. Even if you don’t about the story, the art is simply fun to look at

casey And the writing is funny without feeling glib.

brooke I think what’s most interesting to me is it isn’t really a kids movie. Even though it’s funny, and about a boy who travels with a monkey and a beetle, the tone is not that of a light romp. There are kids movie elements, but they play second fiddle to the other pieces, such as the family feud that Kubo finds himself in the center of, and his mother’s mental health. I mean, I’m sure kids can appreciate some pieces of those things, but they are not the kinds of themes that usually come up in entertainment for children.

casey I think that’s exactly what makes it a great movie, regardless of the audience. It’s definitely not juvenile or childish, but there’s a real feeling of wonder that I appreciated, and I assume most kids would as well.

brooke Fair enough. I don’t know if I liked Kubo as well as say Paranorman, but it’s definitely a good watch, and the ending is worth mulling over for a while.

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