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Monday, August 22, 2016

[GUEST] Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

GUEST WRITER: Don Shanahan is a fellow Chicago film critic of "Every Movie Has a Lesson." He is an elementary educator who writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. Don is one of the directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Association (CIFCC). Please welcome him as a new contributor to Eman's Movie Reviews.

The Trailer:

The Good:
Laika Entertainment, the Portland-based and Phil Knight-backed stop-motion animation studio that brought you “Coraline,” “ParaNorman, and “The Boxtrolls” have outdone themselves with their newest effort. “Kubo and the Two Strings” leaps off the screen with an original foreign folk tale that employs a rich originality and builds a strong base of emotional connection that rivals its Disney/Pixar contemporaries. Everything about its surface is finely crafted and creatively awe-inspiring.

True to Laika’s high aptitude for unique stop-motion animation, the final product is exceptionally gorgeous and brimming with aesthetic visual splendor. Tracing inspiration from the Edo period of Japan from the 17th-19th centuries, the Tolkien-level wide-ranging geography balances natural-like realism with flourishes of artful exaggeration. Zooming closer from the vistas and settings, the seemingly infinite layers of minute detail constructing each flesh-clad or folded-paper character’s presence, from their textured appearances to their molded movements, are nothing short of a technical and artistic wonder. Words cannot do them justice. Look behind-the-scenes to see the awesome genius of the Laika style.  

The Bad

A bruising limitation was warned and now it rears its ugly head at the end. There’s no way around it other than to say that “Kubo and the Two Strings” has to be called on the carpet for its whitewashed casting. It is very understandable to see how names like Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, and Rooney Mara sell tickets. All are excellent performers in their roles, especially Theron, but this is an Asian fairy tale of human characters, not ambiguous animals like the “Kung Fu Panda” series, and the only genuine names of diversity are veterans George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in throwaway bit parts. There is a wealth of more-than-capable young and veteran acting talent from the proud nation of Japan that could have given this film an extra measure of dedicated and respectful cultural loyalty and validity.

The Reason

The mysticism and homespun mythology of “Kubo and the Two Strings” compose a wholly compelling and beautiful narrative fit for children over 8 and their discerning parental chaperones. The team of debuting director and Laika CEO Travis Knight, story developer Marc Haimes, character designer Shannon Tindle, and screenwriter Chris Butler were the cooks in the kitchen that braised this mature and meaty fable. Every demographic of this film’s audience will be able to gravitate to one or more of its many powerful themes. Ranging from mother-son relationship dynamics and protective parental love to sensitive displays of humanity and mortality, each motif carries purposeful symbolism and could fill its own dissertation to celebrate their profoundness.

The Rating
: 9/10

My [Loosely based] Ratings scale

10-9 = A Must watch at any cost. 
8.5- 7.5 = Theater worthy 
7-6.5 = Matinee/rental worthy at best
6 = Watchable (If it's free)
5 - below = Avoid at all costs

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