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Kubo and the Two Strings - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Kubo and the Two Strings
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B+
Animation: A

When taken on the story alone, Kubo and the Two Strings is fun, but unexceptional. In fact, I spent a lot of the story thinking, Huh? What? Not that that necessarily matters; kids don't give a shit. The thing is, though, this movie is absolutely worth seeing for the animation alone. This applies to children and adults alike.

You can't take your eyes off of it. Kubo is brought to you by the same studio that offered the great Coraline, and the advances in stop-motion animation techniques in the seven years since that film was released is evident. Coraline was ten years in the making, script to finished product; Kubo was done in half the time -- but that only makes it more impressive. Because you won't see a more impressively animated film this year.

The fact that Kubo and the Two Strings was made using stop-motion animation makes it a wonder to behold. The seamless movements, the gorgeous photography, the attention to detail, right down to the hairs on characters' (literally puppets') heads -- they all combine to make a genuine visual marvel. How many people must it have taken to put this movie together? The technical achievements here echo those of traditional animation in films like Bambi, with its unprecedented realistic depiction of details like raindrops in water. Here we get the likes of wind and ocean waves, even an underwater sequence -- all using sequenced photographs of staged puppets and props.

Kubo isn't perfect. I have nothing against great actors like Charlize Theron or Matthew McConaughey, but I'm a little mystified by a cast of Japanese lead characters all being voiced by white actors. Director Travis Knight does have an explanation for this, but it's honestly pretty weak. One brief, supporting character is voiced by the ubiquitous George Takei, but here his presence feels a little uncomfortably like tokenism. It can't possibly be that hard to find talented voice talent of Japanese descent, even American ones. (And yes, these are animated characters, which takes away some necessity for voice actors looking like the characters they play -- but these lead actors are recognizably white. It comes across as a little strange.)

And maybe I was just too tired today, but at times I found the story a little hard to follow. Kubo(Art Parkinson, who plays Rickon Stark on Game of Thrones) has the magical ability to bring origami creatures to life, but why that power specifically, who knows? We do eventually get into a family heritage that connects to "the heavens," although Kubo's relatives are never referred to specifically as gods. That said, his mother becoming a live version of his monkey charm, or the cursed beetle-man . . . well, just go with it, I guess. It's a cartoon. Maybe I'm getting old.

As always with a movie like this, in the end the story doesn't matter that much, unfortunately. Granted, it's true that Kubo and the Two Strings goes to sadder and darker places than most animated feature films do, but that alone doesn't make it as "brave" as some are making it out to be. Pixar was taking far greater risks with storytelling a decade ago. One detail that does stick with me is Kubo's hair: he comes across as pretty androgynous, an aspect that was clearly not intentional but which appealed to me anyway. He also has a patch over a missing eye, but that gets into the convoluted backstory and plot that I just don't have the time to get into here.

The bottom line, as always, is that Kubo and the Two Strings is serviceable entertainment on the story level, but nearly jaw-dropping in its animated renderings -- which alone makes it far more entertaining than it would have been otherwise. I suppose that's the way in which this movie appeals to all ages: it looks pretty for the kids; it's a technical marvel for the adults.

kubo and the two strings

Overall: B+
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