PG – 102mins – 2016 – 3D
“If you must blink, do it now…”
Since making my jaw drop with their surreal first (stop-)motion picture, 2009’s expansive Neil Gaiman adaptation Coraline, animation supremos Laika have yet to give me a reason to close it. I will confess that their last release, The Boxtrolls, was heavier in grotesque humour than heart, but it was artful and entertaining.
With their uniquely titled fourth feature, Kubo and the Two Strings, the rising entertainment studio have once again found their emotional edge for a terrifically fulsome and well-balanced adventure which is at times sentimental, profound, exciting, funny, warm, even scary.
The delicate patience-testing animation technique is skilfully realised and seamlessly complimented by some dazzling CG flourishes which up the fantasy quotient and make the malleable puppets jump off the screen – whether fighting giant skeletons, swimming from hypnotic sea beasts or merely sitting around a campfire, contemplating life – and into your affections.
While your eyes are being dazzled by the magical visuals, your soul is lifted by our brave protagonist’s epic quest. Empowered by a magical ability to form origami with his mind and move the paper props with his three-stringed shamisen (Japanese guitar), one-eyed lad Kubo (Art Parkinson) instantly stands out as different… Special.
Living in seclusion with his ill mother, the young would-be samurai must flee his once secret hideaway and hunt down three fabled McGuffins – a “Sword Unbreakable,” a samurai breastplate and a golden helmet – in order to best the sinister evil-doers determined to steal his remaining eye – who just so happen to be his Aunt (Rooney Mara) and grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes).
Rendered prematurely parentless and accompanied across the ancient Japan landscape by a spirited Monkey (Charlize Theron) borne out of a wooden charm and a cursed warrior turned into an amnesiac man-beetle (Matthew McConaughey) – the titular Two Strings – Kubo is entrenched in familial themes which will resonate with all ages and is one of the manifold reasons why this Laika-ble and gorgeous fantasy is an instant modern classic which is seriously challenging to steal Pixar and Ghibli’s crown.
CR@B’s Claw Score: