By Charly SHELTON
Not many movies come along that are beautiful in story and visuals, resonate in the heart and mind, surpass expectations for the film itself and the genre overall, and can leave the viewer spellbound, thinking about them for days, weeks, years. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is just such a movie. From Laika Studios, the force behind “Coraline,” “The Box Trolls” and “Paranorman,” this new stop-motion animated adventure is destined to be a classic.
Kubo lives in a quaint seaside town in feudal Japan. Every day, he goes into town to perform with his enchanted shamisen (a Japanese banjo), which can make paper fold itself into origami and come alive to act out the tales of his father, the legendary samurai Hanzo. But Kubo must be home by dark to care for his ailing mother, a sky god of old who rejected her birthright to be with her mortal love, Hanzo. Her father, the Moon King, was furious when he found out about their romance and that he had a grandson (Kubo). Hanzo fought the Moon King to save his family and paid dearly for his insolence to challenge a god. Kubo and his mother now live in hiding, never letting the moon see them for fear of being found out. That is until one day when Kubo breaks curfew. A dark god comes to take him back up to the sky world to become a god, cold and unfeeling. This sets Kubo off on a journey to reclaim the only thing that can save him – his father’s enchanted armor.
This is a legend brought to life. With twists and turns, three acts of valor, like the trials of Hercules, and surprises that pull at the two heart strings (get it?), this could be one of the best animated films ever made. And yes, I’m including Pixar films.
This really is spectacular not only because of how great the story is or how moving the emotional content is, but a true spectacular as in spectacle. The whole film is stop-motion and some of the sets and characters are just incredible. There are digital additions to make it look the best it can and add elements which can’t be done in stop-motion, but the heart of it is the same technology which brought dinosaurs to life in the 1925 epic, “The Lost World.” The scale of these miniatures grows rather large with some lead characters being only a few inches and some villains being several feet tall. The result is a fully engrossing visual aesthetic which the viewer doesn’t question for a second and gives the film an overall storybook feel while still feeling classic Japanese and timeless at the same time.
The aspect of the film beyond what is stated here and which creates a full, well-rounded legend is something I cannot divulge. It needs to sneak up on you and get you just when least expected. Anything else that I would want to say would be through veiled language and half-truths to keep the secrets. All I can say is that this is honestly one of the great films I will see in my time. It’s something that will never get old and will always be just as you hoped it would be when you pass on the Bluray to show your friends and family years down the road.
For those who have a choice between this and anything else in the theater, see this. Take the kids, friends, parents – anyone. And spread the word.
Rated PG, I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars.