Kubo and the Two Strings – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

August 18, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
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“I tell stories about epic heroes and monsters but I had no idea my stories were true” says boy hero Kubo, in the trailer for this enthralling animated action adventure from director Travis Knight (ParaNorman,Box Trolls).

In ancient Japan, Kubo (Art Parkinson) ekes out a living, using sheets of origami paper to illustrate wild stories to the people of his fishing village. He and his mother live in a cave high above the sea where he takes care of her. She slips into a trance when the moon comes out and he knows he must never stay outside after the sun goes down. It’s a lonely existence.

During a village ceremony honouring ancestors, their simple life is shattered. Kubo accidentally summons vengeful spirits from his past who crash down from the heavens to enforce a family vendetta.   On the run, Kubo joins forces with tough talking Monkey (Charlize Theron) and insect samurai Beetle (Matthew McConaughey). The mismatched three set out on a quest to solve the mystery of Kubo’s fallen father Hanzo, a great samurai warrior, and find his father’s precious things: The Armour Impenetrable, The Sword Unbreakable and The Helmet Invulnerable.

With the help of his magical musical stringed instrument, a shamisen, Kubo must battle howling blizzards and monsters, vengeful Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and evil twin Sisters (Rooney Mara) to unlock the secret of his legacy and fulfil his heroic destiny.  The unlikely team seem puny in comparison with the furies they invoke.

It is a lot to ask of a young boy but Kubo has extraordinary magical powers which only become stronger as the mission progresses.  He is able to summon sheets of paper and create them into anything he imagines and as his powers grow he is in danger from the evil relatives he didn’t know existed. The origami sequences are exquisite and I was completely caught up in this make believe world.

The music, including a haunting rendition of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, high quality production and animation add up to a magical experience. However it proved to be too much for the two charming five year old boys who accompanied me as they found it very scary and one didn’t last the distance, even though there were light-hearted scenes to leaven the action.

As an ex-Pom – I’ve lived here longer than in the UK – I found it rather disconcerting that the actors speak with American accents and wondered if English speaking Japanese actors would have sounded less modern.  But that’s a quibble.

4/5    Rated PG  101 mins  Released August 18

Voiced by Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey

Directed by Travis Knight

Story by Shannon Tindle, Marc Haimes

Screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler

Music by Dario Marianelli

 

 

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