Cinema Review: Kubo and the Two Strings | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, October 24th, 2021  

Kubo and the Two Strings

Studio: Focus Features
Directed by Travis Knight

Aug 15, 2016 Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share

Those of you from my approximate group—we’ll call ourselves ‘80s kids—will remember a time when our favorite children’s films were watched through cracks between our fingers as we covered our eyes in horror. We were a generation that came of age with movies like The NeverEnding Story, The Dark Crystal, and Return to Oz. We had pretty good heroes, yes, but we had downright terrifying villains. I’m sure there are plenty of other thirty-somethings out there who still shudder if you at the slightest mention of the G’mork, wheelers, Skeksis, The Nome King, or ((gulp)) Princess Mombi.

The new animated feature Kubo and Two Strings feels somewhat old-fashioned, for a kid’s movie, in the sense that it’s scary as all hell. Considered yourself warned: if you’re thinking of taking a kid to this movie and they’re not conditioned for a few scenes of honest-to-goodness Terror with a capital T, you’ll be leaving the theater early. Kubo plays not only on real fears a child is likely to have—such as losing a parent—but mixes in its own visual nightmare juice, such as murderous ghouls in kabuki masks, underwater eyeball monsters, and building-sized skeletons. It’s strange to describe a movie as a “Hard PG,” but Kubo definitely earns its parental guidance suggestion.

Now that we’ve scared off the younger/more tender audience, it’s time to whole-heartedly recommend the movie for anyone who knows their kids can handle it. Think of it this way: if you feel your kid can handle the scene where Artax sinks into the Swamp of Sadness in The NeverEnding Story, then he or she is ready for Kubo. (He or she is also a hard-ass kid.) This movie is from Laika, the stop-motion studio behind such similarly imaginative tales as The Boxtrolls and Coraline. It looks stunning—especially in 3D—and the production value is impressively high all around, including the voice work from Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, and Mathew McConaughey. It’s worth springing to catch this visual feast on the big screen and with the 3D glasses.

The movie opens with a young woman fleeing someone in a small boat during a raging storm; she’s carrying with her a crying infant who is missing one eye and whose evil ruler grandfather wishes to steal the baby’s other one. (Yeah, it’s that heavy from the start.) Time skips forward, and the child has grown into young Kubo, a gifted storyteller with the magical ability to fold and manipulate paper by playing a musical instrument. His origami creations appear to take on a life of their own as he spins stories in exchange from coin tips at the local marketplace. Through developments we won’t give away here, Kubo winds up on a quest to find three legendary artifacts that will allow him to defend himself from his evil, wizardly grandpa. He’s accompanied by a talking monkey (who used to be a toy), a silent, six inch-tall origami samurai, and a once-great warrior who’s been robbed of his memories and transformed into a Kafkaesque, human-sized cockroach. Yeah, it’s weird, but it’s good.

Kubo is an exciting story, full of magic, humor, thrilling battles, more than a few genuinely scary scenes, and several honest-to-goodness moments of heartbreak that will have quite a few adults dabbing tears from their cheeks. Kubo tells a rich, original, and compelling story which young people will eagerly follow and adults should equally enjoy.

Author rating: 8/10

Rate this movie
Average reader rating: 9/10


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.