Treading a line between brilliant originality and a Japanese mythological tale and you have the story of Kubo and the Two Strings. Kubo, who lives on the outskirts of a town with his mother, can make origami figures come to life with his magical music goes on a journey to find a suit of armour to defeat his grandfather the Moon King. Along the way he is accompanied by a talking monkey and beetle, battles his evil aunt and charms us along the way. Sounds complicated? It sort of is but in a really watchable way.
Lots has been written about the wonderful stop motion animation of Kubo. Lots more has been written about its darkness and 'maybe not for young kids' edge. There are certainly some 'scary' moments that had my daughter looking at the screen from between her fingers so approach with caution if your kids are sensitive to these things.
These are all very valid and accurate. However, my biggest endorsement of the film is it's willingness to tell a story that is good enough and complicated enough to keep kids and adults enthralled. Often a trip to see an animation with kids ends up with a dumbing down with an obscure/out of time/border line inappropriate reference or nod to the parents with a 'are you still awake' nudge and wink thrown in.
Kubo diverts from this path and takes the viewer on a journey that asks its audience to simply keep up and go with it. This is such refreshing change and is a bold decision by the film makers that requires much more credit. This year alone I've sat through the obligatory Ice Age sequel (not as bad as feared but still nonsensical and bland) and I've endured Top Cat Begins (which served neither child or adult). To sit and enjoy a film with your kids is a real pleasure and neither party becoming disinterested is a real joy and rarity. On leaving the cinema I asked my daughter if she liked the film and she practically leapt at me to tell me all her favourite parts (even the scary ones). Kubo may not be for very young kids but certainly my 8 year old was more than up to the challenge.
This animated wonder is a story of self discovery, changing your family narrative and learning how to use your gifts it really is wonderful, beautiful to watch and at time incredibly moving. I f Pixar had made this film it would have a huge publicity machine behind it. Kubo appears to have an underplayed re;ease but word of mouth will surely ensure a wide audience I can't recommend this film enough and it is by no means a 'kids movie'. It is a film for kids and big kids too and if Kubo and the Two Strings is not in my end of year favourites I will be amazed!