VUE REVIEWS: Kubo and the Two Strings

Everyone's been talking about Laika's mesmerising new stop-motion fantasy, but does Kubo and the Two Strings live up to the hype? Oh yes, it does – and then some, says our reviewer.

Words Abigail Chandler

Before the animated prologue that kicks off Kubo and the Two Strings ends, you already know you’re watching a very strong contender for the Best Animated Film Oscar.

As a beautifully-crafted stop-motion woman sits in a boat, battling for survival in a partially computer-generated ocean, you’ll feel the film get its claws into you – and they’ll stay there for the next 100 minutes.

The woman in the boat is the mother of the young Kubo (Game of Thrones’ Art Parkinson). The pair are hiding from Kubo’s evil grandfather, the Moon King (voiced by Ralph Fiennes), who stole Kubo's left eye and wants to get hold of the remaining one. After failing to heed a warning from his mother to never stay out past dark, Kubo finds himself on the run with only his monkey protector (voiced by Charlize Theron) and a forgetful samurai warrior/beetle (Matthew McConaughey) to keep him safe.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings immerses you in a fantastical version of ancient Japan, where none of the locals bat an eyelid at the fact that Kubo can make and animate origami figures to act out his stories through the power of his magical guitar. If you’ve been brought up on Disney films, you might be alarmed at the scarier aspects of Kubo and the brutal realism that creeps in at its edges. This is not a film that shies away from things that are unsettling, as you’d expect from the makers of the creepy Coraline. But alongside its darker aspects, it’s got some terrific action set-pieces and big laughs. McConaughey is hilarious as the well-meaning but largely inept Beetle, while Theron is a substantial action heroine even in the guise of a stop-motion monkey. Most importantly, Kubo is a touching and immensely likeable lead.

Kubo and the Two Strings is visually stunning and works brilliantly in 3D, allowing you to take in all the incredible stop-motion and CGI details. But as well as being a spectacular action-adventure, it’s a moving film with a powerful message about the magic of storytelling and memory. Even this grown-up reviewer found herself holding her breath during fight sequences and shedding a tear from time to time.