By Megan Bianco
Moving to the complete opposite spectrum of Sausage Party from last week, the end of August gives us the family-friendly Kubo and the Two Strings. The movie is produced by Laika Entertainment, which has brought back the medium of stop-motion animation that was common in the 1980s before CGI became the default technique. Though making only modest hits with audiences, critics have praised the company for expanding the limits of animation with Coraline (2009), Paranorman (2012) and now Kubo.
In a small Japanese village, Kubo (Art Parkinson) is suddenly orphaned when his single mother is killed saving him from two vengeful witches (both voiced by Rooney Mara). Now he must discover his destiny and family’s past connected to his magical guitar, and how his new friends—a talking monkey (Charlize Theron) and a life-size talking beetle (Matthew McConaughey)—fit into everything.
George Takei and Ralph Fiennes co-star. Kubo’s main strengths are its stop-motion production— especially in an era where 2D animation has been obsolete for almost a decade in favor of the easy and fast convenience of CGI—and guitar-heavy music score by Dario Marianelli. Though CGI can be impressive in its own right, Laika’s stop-motion is fresh and exhilarating to view on the big screen. The story of Kubo and the Two Strings is fairly basic and could have had a stronger third act, but Regina Spektor’s lovely cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” along with the visuals almost makes up for it.