Laika Studios have been around for a while now and have mastered modern stop-animation techniques. Screaming onto the international film scene with the wonderfully creepy Coraline, then continuing with the hilarious ParaNorman and then The Boxtrolls. These guys continue to impress and scare children in the way that Tim Burton used to when he still made good movies.. but that’s a rant for a different day.
So Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest from Laika and probably the most ambitious so far. Travis Knight, CEO and lead animator at Laika, decided to sit in the director’s chair this time round to make a well-crafted martial arts fable about Kubo (Art Parkinson), a young boy with mystical powers on a quest to discover the truth about his family with a spirit guide monkey (Charlize Theron) and a low IQ beetle-man (Matthew McConaughey).
The animation is exactly what you’d expect if you’ve seen the other films, multiplied by a million. It’s an epic. Think The Hobbit meets The Nightmare Before Christmas. Theron excels as the wise and cunning monkey and really adds a sense of warmth to the story, and Matthew McConnoughy is great at playing a total airhead, because he’s never done that before. Kubo is a lovable character and grows up throughout the film, and we grow with him. The highlight for me though were the uber creepy sisters both played by Rooney Mara. This was the scary Burtonesque edge I was looking forward to in Kubo, especially since there was a lot of it in Laika’s previous films. It also seemed to drag on quite a bit whereas the previous films were quite snappy and packed full of wit. Despite it being a rather serious martial arts story, I think it could thrive with a bit more humour.
Which reminds me, this isn’t really a film to take the kids too, which is probably why it was released at the end of summer. But at the same time, it’s also a fantasy adventure, and an animation which is very much like a kids film. I think Knight struggled to find a balance with Kubo.
As I said before, the animation is beautiful. To die for even. Everything in frame is so detailed and intricate, but it never reaches ridiculous levels. Every little detail has its place here and I love it.
It’s a shame that it takes so long to make one of these movies. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait to get another film out of Laika.