Kubo and the Two Strings ★★★★

The fourth feature film by Laika Entertainment, LLC is a stunning example of handcrafted magic from the famed studio that beautifully balances its rich, colourful fable with adult-oriented themes, action-packed extravaganza & jaw-dropping stop-motion animation to finish as another enriching, enthralling & exquisite delight for viewers of all ages that entertains, enlightens & rewards in more ways than one.

Kubo and the Two Strings tells the story of its titular character, a young boy with one eye who lives with his mother in an isolated cave atop a mountain and spends his daytime entertaining the local crowd at a nearby village through his magical shamisen & origami. But when he fails to make it home on time one evening, a chain of events are set in motion that sends him on a quest to fulfil his destiny & confront his fate.

Directed by Travis Knight, the CEO of Laika Studios, in what is his directional debut, Kubo and the Two Strings opens with a brief prologue & a clever monologue that offers its viewers a peek of the world that's waiting ahead and a mindset required to fully grasp it. The first act takes its time to pave the necessary groundwork and Knight's composed direction exhibits all the hallmarks of a budding filmmaker as he expertly handles all the aspects and makes them work harmoniously.

The script borrows heavily from Japanese cultures & folktales yet brims with an originality of its own, not to mention that it provides complete arcs to its characters. The theme of duality keeps surfacing throughout the story but despite its grim tone & morbid elements, it never hesitates to indulge in some lighthearted moments whenever an opportunity strikes. Also, be it the character interaction, their individual stories or the chemistry between them, it only gets better with time.

From the technical standpoint, Kubo and the Two Strings is nothing short of an extraordinary feat. The images are rich in colours & textures, the stop-motion animation is absolutely dazzling, plus there are numerous grand set pieces that give viewers a sense of the daunting task the animators undertook to render those complex sequences with such effectiveness. The wisely chosen camera angles, wide range of colour palette & fluid movements also contribute in enhancing its drama and do so in a very subtle manner.

Editing allows the story to unfold at its own pace but it may not go well with everyone as its final act does feel a bit too stretched, even if it culminates on a fitting note. The background score is absorbing and always in tune with the transpiring events. The voice cast consists of Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara & Ralph Fiennes, each playing their part to near-perfection, with Theron, McConaughey & Mara impressing the most in their respective roles of Monkey, Beetle & the evil Sisters.

On an overall scale, Kubo and the Two Strings is a thrilling amalgamation of a deeply fascinating mythology, smart storytelling, mature themes, interesting character arcs, clever wit, outstanding voice-work & unparalleled stop-motion wizardry, and isn't just arguably the best animated film to surface on silver screen in 2016 but is well worthy of a spot amongst the finest films of its year. A labour of love, passion, vision, imagination & handcrafted creativity, Kubo and the Two Strings is passionate filmmaking & dextrous craftsmanship at its best. Highly recommended.

Full review at: wp.me/p3KleJ-450

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