The much anticipated stop motion animated feature from LAIKA opens in theaters this Friday. Despite its slightly controversial casting choices (Japanese in theme and story, main characters are voiced by white actors), it’s sweeping visuals and family oriented tale will enchant audiences of all ages.
Kubo (Game of Thrones’ Art Parkinson), was raised by his mother after she escaped a dark past to save her infant son’s life. Years later, Kubo is caring for his sick mom, and performing shows in his small village where he brings origami figures to life with his two stringed guitar. But soon, Kubo and his mom are sought after by evil figures from their past who destroy their home. Kubo’s mom makes the ultimate sacrifice for her son, and he is forced to leave his small village behind to embark on a journey, along with his small wooden monkey come to life (Charlize Theron) and a samurai turned Beetle (Matthew McCanaughey), to find three magical items that will help him defeat his aunts, the Sisters (Rooney Mara) and his grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes).
LAIKA has truly raised the bar, once again, on stop-motion storytelling. Adults and children alike will be in awe of the visual treat as the artistry of all the set pieces, like the huge skeleton and underwater scenes, are absolutely mesmerizing. Emotionally, the voice actors fully envelop each of their characters archs and journeys of each of their characters. The cast is stellar, but the third act reveal leaves room to question the casting choices as far as Asian/Asian American talent representation goes.
Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a fun, family feature that audiences will be able connect to on an emotional level. It deals with real dark, and challenging life moments that will create dialogue among family after seeing the film. There are some scary moments that might be too intense for kids under 5, but it depends on the level of intensity your child is used to. Visually stunning, the only real qualm is realizing how this tale could have been told, had it been told through an Asian American voice.