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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Movie Review - Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Featuring the vocal talents of Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, and Matthew McConnaughey
Directed by Travis Knight

The stop-motion animation from Laika Studios is always exquisite.  When their films begin (be it Coraline or Paranorman or The Boxtrolls) I find myself completely enthralled by the hand-crafted nature of the work and that awe was no exception with Kubo and the Two Strings, the company's latest venture.  Unfortunately, as is also the case with films by Laika, I find myself disappointed with the story and the company's inability to pace their films properly throughout.  Promising starts always lead into disappointing middle acts which are sometimes lifted in the finales.  Gorgeous animation can only get you so far.

That isn't to say that Kubo and the Two Strings is bad by any means.  It certainly is successful during its first half when we are introduced to our title character, a young one-eyed boy (voiced by Art Parkinson) who lives in a secluded cliffside cave with his depressed and sickly mother.  Every day, he makes the trek to the Japanese village near the cave to regale the townsfolk with a glorious story about a warrior who defeats an evil warrior -- all told through magical origami that comes to life when Kubo strums his guitar.  (Yes, it sounds odd, but it's rather beautifully imagined.)  Kubo has always been told to return home before dark, but one day Kubo attends a festival in town during which the living townsfolk create remembrances of the dead.  Enthralled by the festivities, Kubo stays out too late and the ghostly visages of his mother's two sisters Karasu and Yukami (Rooney Mara) come to try and steal Kubo's good eye in order to give it to his grandfather who, legend has it, stole his missing eye.  Kubo's mother fends off her two sisters and tells Kubo to run away and hide.  Upon waking up the next morning, Kubo is greeted by Monkey (Charlize Theron) which seems to be a real-life iteration of a wooden snow monkey figurine he had his entire life.  Together, Kubo and Monkey trek across the landscape of Japan in order to find the pieces of a magical armor that will protect Kubo from his grandfather who obviously wants to do him great harm.

In and of itself, that aforementioned story is engaging, unique, and melds modern and historic Japanese traditions.  However, once Kubo's trek starts, Kubo and the Two Strings loses much of its dramatic tension, essentially becoming a road movie with Kubo meeting the warrior from his stories (Matthew McConaughey) who helps the young boy and monkey on their quest.  Sure, there is some nice repartee between the voice actors with the trio of Theron, McConaughey, and Parkinson creating an enjoyable listening experience.  And, as mentioned before, the animation throughout the entire film is stellar.  Lush landscapes, gorgeous costumes, and fascinating imagery populate the entire film, creating a visually stunning experience.  However, the story falls apart a bit and while the animation saves it -- this one ekes out a win for me thus far when it comes to the animated films of 2016 -- I really want Laika to step it up in the story department because they've got the goods visually that's for darn sure.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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