Kubo and the Two Strings Review

 Kubo and the Two Strings is the newest film from the stop motion animation studio Laika, the studio behind Coraline, Paranorman and Box Trolls, that follows Kubo as he tries to find three pieces of mythical armor that belonged to his late father in order to defeat the Moon King. So how does it stand up?

Well first and foremost it's pretty gorgeous looking. Laika's stop motion has always been incredible and this is no exception.

 One aspect that I thought was really beautiful is that Kubo has the ability to control paper through his magic guitar and the effect of the origami folding and then coming to life is striking and beautifully done. There's also a sequence where they make a boat out of leaves that is beautifully done and the image of the ship made of leaves is strong.

My only qualm with the visual style is a tiny nit pick. Since they used rapid prototyping and 3D printing all the elements of the character's head have the same texture. So Kubo's teeth and skin have the same look and feel to them, and one of my favorite aspects of stop motion is really getting the variety of real world textures in there. That's a tiny complaint though for an otherwise beautifully stylized film.

Unfortunately for me this is where the compliments for Kubo kind of end. While a visually strong I felt the story telling was pretty shallow and lacking some real character development.

There's a lot of telling and not a lot of showing. Similar to Laika's other movies, the set up is usually better than the pay off.

We dive right into the story with a lot of exposition, which is fine at the beginning of a movie sometimes if you're trying to set up a lore for a stylized world. The problem to me though was that we never get a moment to really slow down, everything is exposition to set up something else in the movie.

We never really get a moment to sit and breathe with the characters in their lives.

The movie really hits the ground running and waists little time in the main story getting started, unfortunately for me that made it so that I wasn't as invested in the characters as much as I would have liked to have been. It just felt very "and then this happens" as opposed to a more organic "SO then this happens."

The story itself is a great idea, and I was onboard with almost every element of it from the magic guitar to the beetle samurai, but it just didn't feel very well structured. I think it would have benefitted to really taking time to slow down, as well as showing characters developing as opposed to talking about the characters developing. I'm a strong believer in less is more and I think that would help the movie as a whole.

Finally the other big thing that fell flat for me was the voice acting. While I thought the actor who played Kubo (Art Parkinson of the younger brother of that British guy in San Andreas starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson fame) and Ralph Fiennes who played the Moon King did a fantastic job, the rest of the cast fell short. I'm a big fan of Charlize Theron normally but I thought her and Matthew McConaughey both did a pretty bland job.

There wasn't a lot of intensity or emotion in their line reads, even when it was supposed to be the big climax of the film. All their line deliveries just felt the same to me compared to their previous lines. Not a lot of variety or energy in their acting it all felt kind of flat to me.

So all and all I think Kubo is a very pretty movie visually with great character design, color pallet, and lighting but it lacks a strong story and characters that you really feel invested in throughout the film as well as some weak voice acting that doesn't help when I'm already feeling disconnected to the characters.

Is Kubo worth seeing? Yes definitely. Is Kubo an amazing movie? Not really.