The Nightmare Before Christmas set a new standard in stop-motion animation. The art form has improved ever since. Laika, the PIXAR of stop-motion animation, has been around for ten years. Their first feature, Coraline, introduced the company’s fair share of light and dark moments that older kids and adults would appreciate. It became their trademark with ParaNorman (sadly underrated) and The Boxtrolls (their weakest entry). Kubo and the Two Strings, their latest feat, has a poignancy that is lacking in your standard family films—let alone animated films (excluding anything from PIXAR).
Set in ancient Japan, Kubo (Art Parkinson, Game of Thrones) is living a peaceful life in a cave caring for his sick mother. He entertains the residents of a nearby village with his stories by playing his three-string instrument which has the power to bring his origami figures to life. One night, he accidentally stumbles upon a spirit from his past. He goes on the run with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) to retrieve his father’s samurai armor. With it, he must defeat the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and his two evil aunts (Rooney Mara).
At the screening I attended, they were only six people—myself included. Two of them were younger kids (one was either three- or four-years-old, while the other was about six). When the two aunts made their first appearance, the kids were scared out of their minds.
Kubo and the Two Strings will most likely frighten young children. I think children over 10 will have a ball, while adults will get something special out of it. This is perhaps the most mature film from the guys of Laika. While it has its fair share of funny moments (notably McConaughey’s Beetle, with his puns and his personality of having little to no memory of his past albeit a fighting expert), one of the reasons why the movie shines other than the gorgeous animation and the edge-of-your-seat action is its moments of melancholy and sheer magic being brought to the screen. Kubo’s relationship with his dying mother is almost impossible to get tears in your eyes.
Legends never die; they live on for generations.