By Louie Wieseman
That was a lovely surprise. Laika Entertainment hits a home run yet again.
Kubo and the Two Strings is the fourth feature film from Laika, and while it’s not their top grossing hit, it is their top rated film so far. Other films from the studio include Coraline, Paranorman, and The Boxtrolls. This film is the directorial debut for Travis Knight and features voice acting from Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey. The film was recently added to Netflix and other streaming services, making it my Netflix pick.
Immediately, I loved the charm of this film. It’s apparent that this film is true to its Japanese heritage, seeing how the film focuses on Kubo’s shamisen being able to create origami from the paper he holds within his bag, and how Kubo is the son of the samurai warrior Hanzo (based off the famous ninja and former Japan ruler Hattori Masanari). Despite so many tragic events happening in Kubo’s life though, there’s just a gleeful charm to him. Kubo also stays true to his mother and takes care of her after she hits her head in an accident. She preaches the importance of memories and remembering other people and their stories.
What surprised me most about this movie was the flow from seriousness to comedy. While a good majority of it is surprising for a kid’s film (there’s death, murder, and other dark themes), I was especially surprised by the some of the mature comedy. Maybe I’ve just been brainwashed by Disney on how comedy should be tied into a kid’s film, but the very on-the-nose and head-turning witty humor was something I very much enjoyed. I just don’t know if a kid would pick up on some of it.
The whole message of the film was endearing to me due to its positive messages about memories. Without giving away too much plot, Kubo has to choose between his mortal self with the memories he has, or immortality with those essentially erased. It seemed to strike a chord with me because an uncle of mine recently passed away. While there was of course some mourning over the loss of a loved one, my family all immediately started sharing stories about him. I couldn’t stop thinking about him during the climactic fight of this film and when Kubo vows to protect the memories of his mom and the stories of his dad.
Kubo was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2017 Academy Awards, but lost to Disney’s Zootopia. I haven’t seen any of the other films that were nominated this year, but it actually looked like a rather tough choice (well, for movie critics maybe… who knows what’s up with the Academy? [And yes, I’m still mad How To Train Your Dragon 2 was ROBBED in 2014]). I’m excited to see this current trend of hit animated features like Kubo on the main stage. Quality animation seems to be making somewhat of a comeback to the big screen.
Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a great film. It might not be extraordinary or revolutionary, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. Don’t get me wrong though, if it comes up in conversation, I’ll recommend it to everyone in the room. I very much enjoyed the film and hope that you check it out. Like I mentioned before, it is on Netflix, so add it to your list and watch it if you’re wanting a nice little pick-me-up.