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‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is a stop-motion masterpiece

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('Kubo and the Two Strings' Official Facebook Page)

(‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ Official Facebook Page)

What a fortunate time it is to be a parent.

When I was a kid, on many Sunday afternoons, my father would bring me and my brother to see whatever new children’s movie was playing in the local cinema. Usually, we picked the most action-packed and fantasy-filled animated flick. While these were fun for our young and more easily appeasable minds, my father would always leave looking miserable. Those movies focused primarily on their target audience (children) and didn’t take enough time to consider the parent that would be accompanying them.

This predicament is no longer the case. “Kubo and the Two Strings,” the new film from renowned animation production company Laika (the geniuses behind “Coraline” and “ParaNorman”) is the perfect example of why. While the film does contain a straightforward narrative that employs the classic conventions of child-oriented entertainment, it also contains subtler nuances that people of any age group will find appealing.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” takes place in ancient Japan. A young boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson) lives stowed away in a cave on top of a mountain with his ailing mother. Each day Kubo ventures into the local village to impress the folk-dwellers with his magical art of paper origami manipulation, which he has the ability to control with his shamisen.

His impressive power is as mysterious to him as his immediate family’s past. Kubo is unaware of the whereabouts or happenings of his missing father, a samurai named Hanzo, and he does not fully understand why he has only one working eye (his hair covers the patch over his other).

Kubo’s mother cannot help him find the answers he seeks as she cannot fully remember her own life’s details. However, she does recall one particular thing again and again, and that is to remind Kubo about the danger that would befall him should he wander about the village after nightfall. Soon thereafter, Kubo finds himself mistakenly out too late, and this great danger reveals itself, forever altering his previously peace-filled path.

The narrative of “Kubo and the Two Strings” certainly has its moments. With its silly jokes and underlying moralistic message, you might find yourself emotionally moved throughout the main character’s knowledge-seeking journey.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” also exemplifies the tremendous progress stop-motion animation has made. It’s undoubtedly the most beautifully made stop-motion feature in recent memory. The film makes incredible use of lighting throughout – sunsets on characters’ faces and shadow reflections along cave walls are just two examples of the remarkable visuals. A brilliant color palette fully captures the vibrancy of the setting. Each scene in “Kubo and the Two Strings” is so fluid and life-like that it’s possible to sometimes forget they were all shot frame by frame.

“Kubo and the Two Strings” may be mostly aimed at kids, yet it can inspire wonder in any adult. There seems to be a trend of children’s films today that greatly entertain older viewers while teaching younger ones about life and art in new and unexpected ways. “Kubo and the Two Strings” achieves this and more. Its images appeal to both true art connoisseurs and kids taking the first steps toward artistic exploration.

My dad could only have wished for children’s films to have been this entertaining while I was growing up. Instead of provoking a grimace, “Kubo and the Two Strings” would have left him with a smile as large as my own after the credits rolled.

William Plotnick can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ is a stop-motion masterpiece”

  1. Kubo on December 7th, 2016 11:18 am

    Paranorman remains my favorite of theirs, but Kubo was visually so beautiful. Makes me so sad that Laika can’t compete marketing-wise with a giant like Disney..

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