Colin Vandenberg

Staff Writer


“Kubo” surprises audiences with its heartfelt story. (Photo courtesy of

Pay close attention to what you are about to read concerning Kubo and the Two Strings;, because if you blink, or lose interest for just an instant, the film may vanish.

That opening sentence will make sense to you once you’ve seen the wildly original and incredibly entertaining family film, Kubo and the Two Strings.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop-motion animated film from Laika Entertainment (ParaNrman, Coraline). The stop-motion method of animation is a bit of a lost-art, partly due to the greater cost of making them, and partly because wide audiences are just more interested in computer animated films.

Nevertheless, Laika is keeping the stop-motion alive, and Kubo may be their best film yet, with its beautiful imagery, fleshed-out characters, and widely inventive (if a tad predictable) story.  

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy with a mysterious family, and a magic paper-whittling guitar which can control the movements of origami shapes. One night, his creepy aunts (“the sisters,” both voiced by Rooney Mara) find him, and force him to leave his home and search for a powerfully magical suit of armor. With the help of his peculiar guardians Monkey (Charlize Theron), and Beetle (Mathew McConaughey), Kubo must uncover the secrets of his past, and defeat the evil Moon King (Ralph Fiennes).

As the narrative progresses, the highly imaginative story features several creative twists and turns. Kubo’s quest forces him and his companions to face a number of obstacles. Each new danger features an exciting and beautifully animated action set-piece. These sequences are most effective and impactful because the film takes time in the beginning to explore and develop each of the main the main characters—you really care about Kubo’s struggle, and Monkey and Beetle are likable and funny in their own unique ways.  

Besides the different animation style, Kubo is unlike any animated film released so far this year. Every action sequence—and there are quite a few—carries great significance and high stakes. These characters are in near-constant danger. Animated family films—even the great ones like this year’s Zootopia and Finding Dory—haven’t achieved Kubo’s level of serious dramatic tension since the days Land Before Time and Beauty and the Beast

Kubo follows nearly all the familiar story elements as the classic Hero’s Journey tale. There is a protagonist with humble beginnings, a quest he must undertake, an enemy he must conquer, and revelations he must discover about his family—and himself—along the way. Knowing this, you may dismiss the film as boring and cliché. Please don’t make that mistake, because there’s a difference between predicting a few story beats and being bored the whole time. While the movie does start slow (and what fantasy epic doesn’t), the gripping story, beautiful animation, and great voice performances by almost the whole cast, ensure that Kubo is far from boring.

In the seven weeks since Kubo and the two Strings opened wide, it has only made about 40M$ on a 60M$ budget (according to Box Office Mojo). This film is far too good to lose that much money. If you want to have an entertaining theater experience, where the whole family can enjoy a great story full of wonderful characters, thrilling sequences, emotional moments, and funny moments, please go out and support Kubo and the Two Strings.