This latest film from the makers of Coraline is a delightful yet sometimes eerie film about a Japanese boy with magical powers having to learn his destiny as a hero.

As a baby, Kubo was the product of a samurai warrior named Hanzo and a witch named Sariatu, who was supposed to have killed Hanzo but fell in love with him. This resulted in a self-imposed exile that resulted in Sariatu being hunted down by her sisters and father, the Moon King. Narrowly escaping, Kubo had his left eye stolen as a result. Years later, Kubo goes to the village every day to tell stories using the magic of origami through his shamisen. However, he must return home before sundown or there will be trouble.

One fateful night, that is exactly what happens and Sariatu’s sisters emerge in hope to get Kubo’s powers by taking his other eye. Sariatu arrives and sacrifices herself to save her son. Kubo soon awakens and sees Monkey, made from a wooden charm he was given, brought to life. In order to save himself from impending doom, Kubo must go on a special quest to find the pieces of Hanzo’s legendary Golden Armor. To assist Kubo and Monkey is Beetle, a former apprentice of Hanzo’s who has been cursed to become half-human, half-insect. Together, this trio will have to do what it takes and Kubo will soon have to learn what it is like to become something he never expected: a hero.

Stop-motion animation outlet Laika’s latest film is a wonderfully made story of a Japanese boy who must become a hero to save himself from his evil family members. Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson, possesses magical powers from his mother’s side and uses his shamisen, a guitar-like instrument, to help him in terms of controlling his powers. At first, it is for show when he tells stories and creates living origami through the powers of both his spirit and his instrument.

Charlize Theron is wonderful in her voice role of Monkey, who not only serves as a mentor to Kubo, but is quite a smartaleck when it comes to her relationship with both Kubo and later, Beetle, at times hilariously played by the always great Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey plays Beetle as a strong warrior, but truly not the sharpest tool in the shed while Rooney Mara brings evil to the role of the Kubo’s witch aunts with Ralph Fiennes rounding out the core cast as the evil Moon King, Kubo’s grandfather who has truly evil intentions to destroy his grandson. In Kubo’s fun-filled story sequence, we get a taste of George Takei’s trademark two-word line with Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa having fun with his role of villager Hashi with Brenda Vaccaro also having fun as the outspoken elderly Kameyo.

The story’s core plot has a sense of eeriness in terms of Kubo having lost an eye not from blindness but having it stolen by the Moon King. There are shades of darkness in the film that normally would be too intense for kids. However, Laika took the smart route knowing its core audience, and tones down the eeriness and brings a more positive outlook with a wonderful story that sounds like it could come right out of Japanese folklore.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a terrific film that meshes the likes of Japanese folklore, despite some errie moments, and the beautiful Laika stop-motion animation, filled with a great voice cast and story.


Focus Features presents a Laika Production. Director: Travis Knight. Producers: Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner. Writers: Marc Haimes, Shannon Tindle, and Chris Butler. Cinematography: Frank Passingham. Editing: Christopher Murrie.

Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro.