Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 89th Annual Academy Awards
Travis Knight makes his directorial debut for Laika with “Kubo and the Two Strings”. Mr. Knight has worked as an animator on all of their features (“Coraline”, “ParaNorman”, and “The Boxtrolls”, before this), and has produced the last three. But wow, has he come into his own as the director of this marvelous stop-motion adventure film. I’m only catching up with it now, because the studio dumped it in the August wasteland, and I didn’t even realize it was from the Laika folks until it was too late. I slip up occasionally. I’m hoping to catch “Kubo” in 3D in my 2nd experience with it. It is so visually impressive, and I would bet the 3D only enhances that. It’s also thematically rich, a bit scary and melancholy, and a bit too intense for my 9-year-old son. Just a fair warning, out of concern for the more sensitive little ones.
On its most basic level, “Kubo” is the journey of a young boy trying to locate a magical armor to conquer some malevolent forces. 14-year-old Art Parkinson voices the title character, plus there’s wonderful vocal work from Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes. Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey, and George Takei. Well, at least we have Mr. Takei, to lend some authentic flavor to a tale that originates in ancient Japan. And there are flamboyant dollops of the macabre, involving a giant skeleton guardian, evil spirit aunts, missing parents, the Moon King, as well as locations called “Hall of Bones” and “Garden of Eyes”. I love the worlds that Laika creates, and “Kubo” is their best outing of the quartet, since their “Coraline” debut. Strikingly beautiful, deeply emotional, and with a soundtrack that includes “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, this animated feature flirts with greatness.