Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) Review

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*Summary: Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shoreside village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.
Pros:
Cast and Characters. There’s a lot of characters in the film but there are only three that really matter. Well, kind of four, but mainly three.
  • Charlize Theron as Monkey. First of all, I love Charlize she’s awesome, her voice is very commanding and in this particular animated role, she plays a monkey charm that was brought to life as a protector for Kubo. Her voice has a very motherly charm to it, as well as remaining firm and stubborn. Her delivery of the character’s lines helps the dialogue hit strong. Very easy to screw this character with the wrong voice actress. She is pretty badass, in every sense of the word. Monkey’s humor is dry and sarcastic which makes her a perfect foil to the Beetle character.
  • Art Parkinson as Kubo. I was actually watching San Andreas with him in it earlier, so I was pleased to see him doing this movie. Kubo’s character is a young boy, about 11, I think, and he is a storyteller. He has the ability to magically control paper (origami) to help his stories, which is already cool, and as the story progresses, he begins to mature and progress himself. This is very much a story of discovery for him. His design was also pretty great. The actor, is about 14, and he projects such youthful playfulness in this role, I’m glad they got someone who is right in the middle, not to young whose voice would be too high, or someone too old (or with a too mature sounding voice) because Kubo is still young but he basically takes care of himself. I think that voice would have some age to it, as well as a bit of roughness while maintaining youth. Hope that wasn’t confusing, I just think it all balanced out well. Plus, when Kubo was telling his story to the villagers, the way he would get right into character, ah it was amazing.
  • Matthew McConaughey as Beetle. I just want it to be known that I was legit surprised to see that he was this character because I didn’t know beforehand. I’m being nice and telling you now lol, if that matters. Beetle is where a lot of the light humor comes from and he balances out the group. With Kubo’s youth and wide eyed nature, Monkey’s motherly stubbornness, Beetle brings in a lightheartedness. His character has memory issues so the things he decides to “remember” or decide to say are delivered hilariously. The dialogue back and forth he has with Theron was done very well and they played off each other well. I wonder if they managed to record together at all.
The Animation. Oh my goodness, it’s spectacular. It’s by the same people who did Coraline, it’s stop motion animation and it’s amazing. The detail done on each character, down to the eyes. The eyes are a big part of the story and the animators made sure the audience knew it. Kubo’s in particular. They’re so beautiful, I kept remarking about it to my friend whenever someone’s eyes widened in fear, anger or narrowed, or shed a tear. It was just beautiful. The attention to Monkey’s fur, it looked like shreds of paper (which is what made me think in the trailers she was one of his paper creations come to life), or Kubo’s hair and how it looked in water or how it moved in the wind. Ugh! I could totally gush. There are villains of course, and the animation on them, as they weaved in and out of shadow, or mist… man!
The Musical Score. Like I always say, music can make or break a film and the music here is lovely. Since Kubo uses a musical instrument to channel his magic in order to tell his stories, we’re often gifted with hearing him play on his Shamisen. It has a very unique sound so it was nice. However, the actual soundtrack was amazing. Definitely a soundtrack I would buy. Dario Marianelli is amazing (he composed the score for Pride & Prejudice (2005) which I adore so sooooo many points!).
Two Villains Subordinates. Without spoiling too much, there are kind of a group of villains in the film but there are two we see the most, kind of. They resembled ghosts in a way, due to the nature of their movements etc. It’s two women and they operate like ghosts! It was so creepy! It was amazing! The animation around them, the voice acting, the music! GAH!
The Friendship/Camaraderie. This is very much a journey that all three characters must embark on together. Yes, it’s mostly Kubo’s story but Beetle and Monkey are integral to him surviving the quest. Most of the film, deals with them trying to find this magical armor worn by the great warrior Hanzo and the chemistry between the three characters is great. As mentioned above, between Beetle’s charming and endearing presence and humor, Monkey’s stubborn and sarcastic nature, and Kubo’s childlike innocence and mature strength, it works. The film is definitely carried on their backs and it succeeds.
The Emotion. Not gonna say a lot on this because I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s some emotion here and it’s heart felt, you may shed a tear.
The Humor. This could also be considered a con but that depends on what type of humor you enjoy. I enjoy dry, sarcastic and witty humor which there’s a lot here. Between the dialogue between characters (mostly from Monkey) and the animation done on the faces, or the actions of characters reacting to things, it’s pretty funny.
The Story. I want to just go into detail but I won’t, but the story is an interesting take on the “hero’s journey” trope and it’s very creative.
Cons:
Anticlimactic . Such a shame because the rest of the film is great, but the climax  could have been so much better. Kubo has to face off with a villain and the conversation beforehand was pretty great, but the actual altercation was kind of lame and I could see something so much better. It didn’t need to be grander, but the villain turns into something that I don’t think he needed to. I mean, he could have but later when things got to challenging because it seemed like he played his trump card too soon. So when our hero discovers his strength, it’s because the villain got even more powerful.
The Story. Also in the pros but it’s here mainly because it gets a little muddled in there. It’s hard to know exactly why there are certain motivations for certain characters, even if it’s explained, it’s not explained well, I mean, the film didn’t have to blatantly lay it out for me but while most of the dialogue is good, some of it gets a little choppy that prevents the narrative from flowing as well as it could.
Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a fantastically animated film, with a beautiful musical score to accompany it. The voice acting fits well with the characters and a majority of the characters themselves, are likable and relatable that it’s easy to like them. The chemistry between them is strong. The humor ranges, some may like it, others may not. There is humor for adults and humor for the kids. It is visually stunning, the attention to certain pieces of detail stand out, especially the eyes on the characters. However, the story does falter a bit in it’s narrative, it can appear a bit choppy preventing it to flow as well as it should. The last third was a bit anticlimactic but the film finishes on a happy yet somber note. Highly recommended. Young kids may get a bit bored, it’s animated but it might be a bit too… exposition-y for them.
Rating: 4.69 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Kubo and the Two Strings? What did you think? Tell me in the comments below! Don’t forget to like and follow this blog for more reviews!
Much love.
*Summary from Imdb
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