If you must blink, do it now.
Heroes come in all packages. including a young boy. That boy is Kubo, and the masterpiece he comes from is Kubo and the Two Strings.
I had high hops for Kubo and the Two Strings. Being from the visionary studio LAIKA – which happens to be a stone’s throw from my house – I expected it to be visually stunning.
I did not expect it to tug at the heartstrings as much as it did.
The story is an original one, something new for LAIKA. It tells the tales of a boy who lost his father years before, has a special power of his shamisen (a magical musical instrument), and his quest to find out where he came from and why his family is broken apart. Through this quest he discovers his powers are stronger than he thought, growing stronger every day. He is joined by Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest after a devastating accidental conjuring of spirits of the past who try to take him further from his heart and home.
One of the most interesting parts of the story is the backstory – Kubo and the Two Strings came to be from the mind of Travis Knight, LAIKA president, who conjured his own childhood to bring a piece of himself to Kubo:
“His journey pretty much mirrors my own. He’s basically a lonely kid and that was really my experience growing up. I spent a lot of time alone. I made friends slowly when I made them at all. I spent a lot of time exploring the woods near my house and climbing trees and jumping over creek beds and things like that. I spent a lot of time creating and drawing and making music and writing stories and when I wasn’t doing that my whole life revolved around my mom. She was my closest friend in the world”.
Kubo and his mother share a deep loving relationship that reminded me so much of my own son and I, hence the heartstrings. The film opens with the two with Kubo as a baby and their interaction. It sets the entire film up mood-wise and it’s absolutely breathtaking. The rest of the movie is filled with action, adventure, comedy, and above all else – love and family.
Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey are spectacular in their roles as Monkey and Beetle. Interestingly enough this is their first animated film, which is a surprise based on their tenure in the film industry. Art Parkinson (Game of Thrones) plays Kubo with a quiet determination. Kubo is vocally understated, letting his power do the talking.
I have to admit, I was a little worried about Kubo and the Two Strings, given it is an original story and so far LAIKA has only done adaptations, but my mind was put at ease when I watched it for the first time. It’s brilliant. Beautiful. Breathtaking….
Remember when you see it – this isn’t drawn or computer animation. The characters, props, and backgrounds all exist at LAIKA studios. The painstaking attention to detail is mind-blowing and a need-to-see on the big screen. The beautiful story is a bonus.