A one-eyed boy who plays lute and makes origami figures lives with his mother, who is a terrific story teller and oppressed by depression. These are among the early and strong characters we meet.
It may not seem like the ideal recipe for an engaging English-language animated film about Samurai-era Japan. Yet, this story charms the viewer with music, magic and extraordinary images.
The originality of having a hero with a physical disability and a mother with a mental health challenge is winning and has an astonishing appeal. In an era of superhero epics, it’s refreshing to see.
Laika studio’s stop-motion – that’s stopping and starting the camera repeatedly, to create movement – creates a truly unusual look.
Dario Marinelli’s impressive score mixes in with George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” so even the sound soars and sounds fresh.
Kubo, our young hero, goes on a quest. Monkey, voiced by Charlize Theron and Beetle, voiced by Matthew McConaughey are also original creations. But it’s Art Parkinson who makes Kubo sound stronger, weaker and utterly believable, even as he faces many obstacles.
When you learn what the two strings are, you’ll be moved although a lesser set of talents would have made it sentimental.
Director Travis Knight crams a lot into this and I will rush to see anything else he makes. The writing team owes nods to Kurosawa, manga and anime but it all feels true and warm-hearted.
Frank Passingham’s cinematography and Christopher Murrie’s film editing are very special.
Everyone at the Stratford East Picturehouse was won over by it.
The creatures and challenges faced may be a bit much for younger viewers. I’d urge caution in taking children under 10, unless they play a lot of murderous video games and are not easily frightened.
Do stay through the credits as you get terrific insights into how Laika made and used the largest stop-motion model ever.