Animation is one of those things that a lot of adults will look at and write off immediately because “it’s for kids.” I like to call those people Wrong (the capital W is entirely necessary, yes). But, since you can’t force everyone to appreciate what you’d like them to, I’ll just say to anyone who is willing to lend half an ear to listen:
Go see Kubo and the Two Strings.
There’s reason to be critical of the casting decisions behind the film. It’s terrible that a movie that focuses on Japanese characters and their culture manages to do so with minimal involvement of Japanese actors (the amazing George Takaei, for example, takes a major back seat to a predominantly white cast), and while I don’t advocate completely setting that aside because it is an important issue, the movie does stand on the merit of its story and animation. Especially the animation.
Laika is one of those studios that will go the extra mile, and then go an extra ten miles because someone came up with the idea for a 15 ft skeleton prop and that idea was greeted with a chorus of “HELL YES. LET’S DO IT.” But before I get into that, let’s talk story.
Kubo is charming and imaginative, with a lot of heart at its core and a set of characters that are endearing. Kubo’s growth as a character is well-executed, with him learning to simultaneously let go and hold close the memories that matter most. The dialogue can get a little clunky, especially towards the end when things get a bit too meta and the script tries to hammer home a point about story endings, but it is a touching tale with a fitting ending, and there are moments that are genuinely terrifying, as the writers intended them to be. Kubo’s aunts in particular are chilling, and remember that 15 ft. skeleton I mentioned earlier?
I wasn’t kidding about that.
Which brings us back to the animation. Kubo is a breathtakingly beautiful film that, true to Laika’s signature style, utilizes stop-motion animation to tell its tale. The studio has come a long way since Coraline, and while that movie was breathtaking in its own right, Kubo is smoother and flows almost seamlessly from frame to frame. So much time and effort went into this film, and it’s amazing how you almost cannot appreciate all that work because you become so engrossed in the movie, you fail to notice the details that point to it.
Kubo and the Two Strings flopped at the box office its first weekend, which absolutely breaks my heart. Kubo is a film of love, and for those who can appreciate animation for what it is, the movie will take your breath away.