Director: Travis Knight
Voice cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes
Plot: Kubo, a young one eyed boy who tells stories for a living, embarks on an adventure to find a magical armor to protect himself from his ruthless grandfather and aunts, with a talking monkey and giant talking beetle as his companions.
Review: Laika has done it again. For the uninitiated, Laika is the stop motion animation studio that produced hit films like Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls.
Kubo And The Two Strings tells the story of Kubo, who lives in a cave by the sea with his dementia suffering mother. He has only one eye, thanks to his mother's ruthless sisters and his grandfather, who took his other eye when he was a baby. Kubo has the ability to make origami shapes come to life by playing his magical shamisen, and uses this gift to tell stories to the villagers for a living. One night, his aunts come for him, forcing his mother to send him away, leaving him with a talking monkey that becomes his protector. Along the way, the duo meet a giant talking beetle, and together they set out on a journey to find Kubo's late father's magical armor, which will protect him from his grandfather, the Moon King.
As far as animations go, Laika's work speak for themselves. It's simply incredible. From the look of the ocean and skies, to character movements and action sequences, everything is top notch. My favorite would be the origami shapes coming to life as Kubo tells his stories. There's also this huge skeleton giant in the film, which Laika had to really build, and it was reportedly 16 feet tall. A week's work would represent 4.3 seconds of film and the entire film took 5 years to complete, so one has to totally respect Laika's commitment to their craft.
The story itself is pretty good too. Following the trio of heroes on their dangerous quest is exciting and of course, magical. Rather than take the usual route most animated films do by focusing on friendship, acceptance and love, Kubo And The Two Strings simply concentrates on telling a story about a boy that tells stories, and his great adventure. There are some nifty action sequences here, like the aforementioned giant skeleton and Kubo's deadly flying aunts. The dramatic parts are also well executed by director Travis Knight and the voice cast. Game Of Thrones' Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey are all perfectly cast as Kubo, Monkey and Beetle respectively. Parkinson brings his youth, Theron her stoicism and McConaughey a balance of cute dumbness and heroism.
If there is a flaw here, it would be a slight lack of humor once the film hits the second half. At this point also, the film starts to be a bit more preachy, but it doesn't affect the audience's enjoyment overall.
Bottom line: If you had to watch one animated film this year, this would be it. (8/10)