I believe what makes ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ worth watching is not only for its amazing stop-motion, but also for the animators’ ability to bring a large world- such as the one scene in this movie -to life. If you look at the mountains and the seas that are shown during this amazing, yet terrifying and thrilling adventure that young one-eyed Kubo (Voice of Art Parkinson) takes along with his companions: The fierce Monkey (Voice of Charlize Theron) and the idiotic, yet in some ways brilliant, master of archery Beetle (Voice of Matthew McConaughey in his animated debut), you can feel the style and effort these animators have put forth in order to make this movie an animated masterpiece.
Its story, however, is not so great with the feeling that the writers of ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ tried to stay as close to Chinese lore as faithfully as possible with plot elements and twists that feel as if they’ve been added in while the footage was still rolling, like an improvisation between the cast members of ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’. Still, ‘Kubo’ manages to impress its audience with amazing visuals that you’d come to expect from a stop-motion animated feature, and in a way for future stop-motion animators to take note of. Laika is an animation studio that has shown us films, such as: ‘Coraline’, ‘ParaNorman’, and ‘The Boxtrolls’; ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is the fourth animated film in the roster. Much like the last three films that the studio has boasted, it has a sense of fantasy, horror, and a premise fit for a collection of stories that you would tell your children to put them to sleep.
The character of Kubo is what you would expect a child to be; he has a sense of mischief that he likes to bug Monkey with from time to time, but he also has a magical talent which separates him from other kids. He uses this magical guitar which has the ability to make some excellent origami to tell stories to the townspeople he entertains every day before sunrise. The only problem is: He doesn’t know how to end them. So one night as he goes to pray to his dead father, he gets pursued by two vengeful sisters (Voice of Rooney Mara) who have some sort of vengeful motive against his mother. This causes him to go on some sort of ‘Wizard-of-Oz’ type of adventure with said Monkey and Beetle to find some equipment in order to take down the mysterious Moon God with the help of an origami version of his dead father.
While the story does sound off-putting based on explanation alone, the adventure in ‘Kubo’ is quite marvelous as we see many bits of origami take place on screen during most of the 101-minute running time. There is also a lot of humorous dialogue that makes the film feel like its correcting plot-holes with the comic banter between Beetle and Monkey; he says one idiotic thing, while Monkey corrects it. There is also an amazing underwater sequence that made my jaw drop in what looks to be the best animated sequence I have seen in a stop-motion film yet. The choreography and fight sequences are well done with the weather matching the intensity of those scenes. I applaud the animators for making ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ happen, yet I walked out with some discomfort regarding the elements that didn’t work for me.