Kubo and the Two Strings Review: Vibrant, Fluid, Lyrical Stop-Motion For Everyone

Photo Credits:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9tDqmOPmto

As an art form, stop-motion animation is a tedious ritual that demands respect even when done just moderately well. Kubo and the Two Strings dares to push the medium beyond its limits with a lively tale of strength and perseverance involving elaborate action and a vivid world breathing with detail. It’s hard to ask a stop-motion filmmaker for more than 90 minutes, and director Travis Knight, also Laika’s CEO, gives us just over a hundred. But for a world so detailed and a story that begs to be layered and fully developed, it’s hard not to wish Kubo was a good half an hour longer.

The Japanese folk lore inspired tale follows young Kubo (Art Parkinson), a gifted storyteller in his village, as he journeys to find three ancient artifacts to defeat his evil grandfather. Joined by Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), Kubo must face spectacular trials. It’s a true heroes journey, a la Joseph Campbell and in the same vein as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. But with its gorgeous animation and Japanese influences, Kubo most closely resembles Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, sporting a similar silly charm to go alongside the epic quest. That comparison, however, only reinforces that our time with these characters and this world is too short.

The characters all work really well, particularly Kubo, Monkey, and Kubo’s two ghoulish aunts (Rooney Mara), but more character beats illustrating the group dynamic would help the film’s more emotional moments land with more gravity. The central villain is also underdeveloped, rendering the climax disappointingly mundane despite its stunning visuals.

But again, stop-motion is far more complex and time consuming than other forms of animation. That’s not to say all stop-motion movies deserve a pass for lack of depth in the story, and don’t get me wrong, Kubo has enough depth to get by. But I yearn for a fuller meal out of a world that is so completely realized visually. Still, there’s no denying that the emotional beats for the most part work, especially in the first half. Kubo and the Two Strings tells what story it has beautifully, which is enough to make it a great animated film. But it could have been one for the ages. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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