Kubo and the Two Strings has an impeccable heritage, the production company behind it made kids classics such as the Corpse Bride, Paranorman, Coraline and more recently Boxtrolls. Laika Entertainment specialise in blending stop motion characters seamlessly with animated backgrounds, and of course making deliciously dark and different kids films.
Kubo and the Two Strings follows the titular character Kubo, as he embarks on a quest to retrieve some magical armour to protect him from his wicked aunts and Grandfather Moon. Kubo you see is a bit special, and can do all sorts of clever things with his shamisen (an ancient Japanese guitar) and his origami paper. When his mother is killed by her sisters, he flees and wakes to find a magical snow monkey and a samurai cursed to be a human beetle waiting to help him.
There are many strengths to Kubo and the Two Strings; most notably the beautiful animation, the wonderful score (the traditional Japanese rendition of when my guitar gently weeps over the end credits is sublime) but it is really the story that captures the heart. A film that doesn’t talk down to children and treats them as capable of vicariously experiencing heartbreak is a brave film and Kubo is a brave film. Yes, it’s not for the littlest ones but any child who fails to be moved by the spectacle in this film is suffering from superhero burnout and should be made to watch this film repeatedly until they’ve rediscovered their humanity.
Although Kubo has been given a PG rating, I would consider it more suitable for 8+ from the feeback from our children. The action is exceptionally intense in places; it was too much for the 4 year old, who had enjoyed Boxtrolls and bits were a little scary for our 7 year old. The nine year old loved it though, as did we. In context, if the script and dialogue were entirely unchanged, but the movie was live action, it could easily be a 15 certification. That isn’t an implied criticism but in fact a strong point in the movies’ favour as it doesn’t condescend or talk down to kids and it deals with strong themes such as loss and disappointment in a very tender manner.
With Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika have hit the jackpot because in a summer filled with great kids films (Swallows & Amazons, Pete’s Dragon, Kung-Fu Panda 3) and some notable action movies like Captain America Civil War, they have trumped the lot of them. This is quite simply the best film I have seen this year bar none.
Kubo and the Two Strings is out on general release on 9th September. If your kids are too young, pop them with a babysitter and go and see it yourself!