Quick Cuts: Kubo & the Two Strings

Expectations are a funny thing. Often-times I will go to a film with low expectations, and even if the movie is mediocre I end up liking it because I expected so very little. Other times, I will be hyped up and be disappointed. I have made a conscious effort in recent years to keep my expectations level. In the case of Kubo, however, my expectations were sky high and the film managed to exceed them.

I have a mixed history with Laika animation. I liked Coraline, loved Paranorman and didn’t see The Boxtrolls because the film’s aesthetic was my visual equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. I can say without reservation that Kubo is Laika’s best film.

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Kubo voiced by Art Parkinson and Monkey voiced by Charlize Theron

Every frame of the movie is gorgeous. For the first twenty minutes or so I was overwhelmed by how immaculately beautiful the film is. The environments are spectacularly crafted and lit for the maximum eye-popping wonder. The framing of every shot is precisely arranged to make the photographer in all of us warm and fuzzy. The character designs are intricate and unbelievably expressive. There was never any doubt that Kubo would be a technical wonder, but it’s success as an aesthetic wonder is unparalleled. Yes, I’ll be pre-ordering the Blu-Ray.

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No caption necessary, or even possible to explain this

In a world where kids films tend to lack imagination (I’m looking at you Secret life of Pets) Kubo dares to be ambitious in its story-line as well. The stakes are real, the story is engaging and the themes are mature. There are a few snafus with circular or repetitive dialogue, and some of the jokes fall flat or feel out of place. However, the film never becomes silly and the comedy flows naturally from the characters, instead of being hi-jinks for the sake of hi-jinks. That said, this isn’t really a comedy at all, but an adventure film–the best I’ve seen in a while. The twists will be predictable for adults, but the foreshadowing is rewarding rather than boring.

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“If you must blink, do it now”

My greatest praise for Kubo, aside from it’s visual perfection, is the pacing. The biggest issue I have with kids movies today (and many blockbusters for adults) is the inability to slow down and have any sort of moment. You can feel when a kids movie is terrified of boring the kids in the audience for even a single second, cramming every dumb joke and zany action scene they can into 90 minutes. Kubo takes it’s time to develop the story and characters and never feels rushed for a second.

I could go on, but I’m sure my endless gushing about this film has already grown tiresome. Needless to say, I’d recommend Kubo & the Two Strings to just about anybody. It is downright maddening that the movie isn’t doing well at the box office, but it’s not too late to turn that around. Go see Kubo!

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