Plot: After an accident when he was a baby, young Kubo wears an eye patch, but he doesn’t let his lessened vision slow him down. He looks after his ill mother, Sariatu and even entertains her with his origami creations, which seem to come to life with his vivid tales. As the Bon Festival approaches, the nearby village is busy with activity, as people prepare to light lanterns to commune with lost love ones. Kubo tries to talk with his deceased father by igniting a lantern, but receives no response. He is hurt and quite disappointed, but he soon has more pressing issues to deal with, as a mysterious smoke begins to encircle the area. The fog is due to the presence of Sariatu’s twin sisters, who want to claim Kubo’s other eye and are only stopped when Kubo’s mother arrives and holds them back. She uses her innate magic to send Kubo off to a distant place, in such a rush that he is unable to do much besides grasp a single strand of her hair. When he wakes up in a cold, unfamiliar land, he meets a talking monkey and learns he is now on a quest, one he knows all too well.

Entertainment Value: While some animated features tend to simplify narratives and focus on slapstick humor to keep young audiences engaged, Kubo and the Two Strings provide a rich, satisfying storyline and a great blend of humor, action, and drama. The movie gets across a lot of background and sets the basic framework through a brief flashback, then a look at Kubo’s origami and love of telling stories. This is done in such a skilled fashion, imparting so much important information, but never feeling like mere exposition. I do concede that the movie’s big reveals are predictable, but for a movie aimed at younger audiences, Kubo conjures up a full bodied narrative that never feels lost or muddled. Even when all of the threads have been spun out into motion, the movie keeps things sorted so that even young viewers won’t feel out of the loop and that is no simple task. The movie is also able to deliver frequent bursts of humor, warmth, and of course, some epic action sequences. A couple of the bigger set pieces are remarkable and have a massive scale, just a wonder to watch it all unfold. I have to admire how much Kubo is able to balance at once, somehow always putting the pieces in the right places and giving us an excellent movie in the process. If you appreciate family oriented films, animation, or just high end filmmaking, Kubo and the Two Strings is highly recommended and shouldn’t be missed.

Even with the great story, rich characters, humor, and action, the first thing you’ll notice about Kubo is the gorgeous visuals. An incredible feat of animation, Kubo features some of the most creative and inventive stop motion animation I’ve seen, even basic scenes come to life in vivid, memorable ways. The character designs are detailed and distinct, while locations are packed with vibrant depth, even the smallest little touches are there and help build this unique world. So even if the characters are just talking, the movie is beautiful to look at, but then Kubo also has some jaw dropping set piece scenes that are simply breathtaking. The dragon chase and the giant skeleton spring to mind, as scenes that are just massive in scale and deliver an epic, imagination capturing sense of cinematic magic. This is a masterful work of animation that on visuals alone deserves to be seen, let alone when those visuals combine with such a compelling narrative. The voice talent involved is rock solid as well, with Art Parkinson as Kubo, Charlize Theron as Monkey, and Matthew McConaughey as Beetle, as well as numerous talented folks in supporting roles.

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