Review: Depth, maturity in ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’

An animated tale with depth and soul uncommon to the animated genre — or any genre, really

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Kubo and the Two Strings” is just another story of a brave one-eyed boy who teams up with a monkey and a beetle to fight off a pair of ghost-like spirits and his grandfather, who can shape-shift into a serpent-like dragon.

You know, typical kiddie fare.

Give originality points to Laika, the animation studio behind “Coraline,” “The Boxtrolls” and “ParaNorman,” whose offerings always veer left of bread-and-butter animated tales of the “Ice Age” and “Angry Birds” variety. If Pixar is the gold standard in animation, Laika is the cool alternative for the boutique crowd.

“Kubo” is bold and daring, telling a truly unique tale set in ancient Japan that is rich with the depth of a story passed down for generations. It recalls the work of Hayao Miyazaki and deals with themes involving family, reincarnation and the strength of the human will.

Those mature threads bring with them characters that might be too much for a 5-year-old. Kubo himself is a resonant hero, a young boy who goes on an exciting quest involving a coat of armor and a “sword unbreakable,” but some of the players he meets along the way — including a pair of witchy, Kabuki-masked sisters and the aforementioned dragon serpent — are downright terrifying, and could cause a few sleepless nights for young ones.

But everyone will appreciate the care and detail poured into director Travis Knight’s beautifully rendered vision, which in parts is like origami come to life, and Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey are exceptional as the monkey and the beetle, respectively.

“Pay attention,” Kubo warns at the film’s opening. From then on it’s difficult to look away.

(313) 222-2284

‘Kubo and the Two Strings’


Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril

Running time: 101 minutes