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article imageReview: Can’t take your eyes off ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 19, 2016 in Entertainment
‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is a stunning and original stop-motion animation that is sure to mesmerize audiences of all ages.
Storytelling has taken many forms over time. While many now rely on movies and TV to deliver their narratives, before that books were key sources of entertainment. But even before the inventions of ink and paper that allowed for any of these tales to be recorded, they were passed on through word-of-mouth. Sharing ancient stories between generations was a favoured pastime and encouraged everyone to use their imaginations. With a touch of magic, Kubo and the Two Strings revives this tradition in Laika’s latest stop-motion animated film.
When he was just a baby, Kubo’s (Art Parkinson) mother fled with him from her treacherous family and hid in the mountains above a quiet village. For 11 years they remained concealed, following simple rules to avoid discovery. But inevitably Kubo’s aunts (Rooney Mara) find him and threaten to return him to the world of darkness and the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes). His mother uses the last of her magic to send him away and hold off her sisters. When Kubo awakens, he finds he is protected by a new guardian: Monkey (Charlize Theron). Together they set out on a quest to recover the golden armour belonging to his father, the great samurai Hanzo. Along the way, they meet Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), formerly one of Hanzo’s loyal soldiers and now cursed as an insect without a past, who promises to help them complete their mission.
One of the most enchanting aspects of this film is the enthralling stories told by Kubo and his mother, using a guitar and magical origami characters. As they recite their tales, the intricate, living paper figures enact the words. While his mother narrates their family’s history for Kubo, including accounts of his father’s bravery, Kubo tells grand stories of heroes and monsters in the nearby town market where locals relish in his fantastic tales and the visual spectacle that accompanies them. Small samurai warriors, multi-legged insects and fire-breathing chickens are just some of the paper characters that populate Kubo’s show.
This is by far Laika’s most accomplished stop-motion picture. The visuals are incredible and it’s difficult to believe any of it was achieved on a tiny set with malleable miniatures. The water, snow and hair move so seamlessly; and the character’s expressions appear so natural, one has to wonder how many faces were created for each. Just before the credits, a video of the construction of a giant skeletal monster they encounter on their journey is played in fast-speed, demonstrating the effort involved in bringing such a significant creature to life. Further evidence is provided in a limited-engagement exhibit featuring Laika’s amazing catalogue.
Moreover, the fantastic story is an absolute complement to the stunning imagery. The studio maintains its balance of somewhat dark events and lighter, more fanciful developments, including a fair amount of humour thanks to the playful bickering between Beetle and Monkey. Yet, even the use of The Beatles’ haunting “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is beautiful and incredibly appropriate in the context of the narrative. Every element of this movie comes together to create an extraordinary, epic adventure that is undeniably the leading contender for 2016’s best animated feature.
Director: Travis Knight
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson and Matthew McConaughey
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