Friday, January 6, 2017

Movie with Abe: Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings
Directed by Travis Knight
Released August 19, 2016

Animated films come in all shapes or sizes, with the power of the imagination serving as the only limit on an animator’s creativity. Historically, fairy tales, fantasies, and musicals were the most common genres made in that format. Disney had a terrific run in the 1990s after producing earlier classics, and Pixar was at the head of the pack in the 2000s with a number of hits. Now, smaller studios and production companies are making a name for themselves, and “Kubo and the Two Strings” is one such effort from stop-motion studio Laika, which marks its fourth innovative production with this release.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” tells the story of a young boy named Kubo who lives in ancient Japan with his frail mother Sariatu. Each day, he regales the inhabitants of his village with stories about his missing father, using his magical powers to animate origami and accompanying the show with his own live music. Each night, he remains inside and hidden from the terror of his aunts and his grandfather, the Moon King, warned by his mother that they are coming for him and for his other eye after taking the first one shortly after his birth.

This film is rated PG but contains an underlying darkness that puts it into a different classification than other more fully family-friendly animated features. Its themes and content – which approach creepy and even really scary at some moments – make much more sense when looked at in the context of the other films Laika has made. In the past seven years, the studio has released “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” and “The Boxtrolls,” all successful and Oscar-nominated, and which address adult-leaning themes through the lens of animation suitable for children. Like those entries, “Kubo and the Two Strings,” which promotes lead animator Travis Knight to director, doesn’t feel like an American movie, imbuing its characters and story with a layered sense of culture and tradition.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” makes good use of its voice talent, employing Art Parkinson, who plays Rickon Stark on “Game of Thrones,” as Kubo, a great fit for the true hero of the story. Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, and Matthew McConaughey all do their parts to enhance the overall experience, one that is ultimately driven by the strength of its story and the high quality of its stop-motion animation. This film certainly qualifies as a fantasy, and it uses its format to the utmost effect to tell it in dazzling style.


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