Kubo and East Lake Academy
Before I get into my impressions of the movie proper, I wanted to note the context of my seeing this movie. I first heard about it from trailers and during the Oscars where it was nominated for a couple of awards (just checked via google and it was nominated for Best Picture and Best Visual Effects for 2017). I then saw that after its theatrical run, it had come to Netflix and I intended to see it. At the end of the 2017 semester, I went back to East Lake Academy during the final week of school just to see how things were going with my former 6th grade teammates. They raved about Kubo and the Two Strings and told me how much the kids loved it. I had always intended to see it, but one thing led to another and I would put it off again and again. Finally, this week, it is set to go off Netflix the 6th (?) of this month here in the United States, so I thought I’d better make it a priority.
Kubo = A Great Animated Movie
I really liked the movie. It is one in which the main character doesn’t complain about his circumstances. He doesn’t always want to do as he’s told, but from the characterization and editing of the movie, you can see that he very much loves his mother and wishes that he could help her more than he is able to because of his young age. He also wants to know his father better and that touches off the beginning of the story’s central plot. While the humor is isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as, say a Pixar movie, still it has quite a bit of humor and their are a ton of verbal gags and quips that could easily become referential or memes in the future.
Kubo = A Film with a Message
Now, most films have a message or theme that they are imparting to the audience, regardless of whether it is explicitly made clear or not. In Kubo, the theme is explicitly spelled out at the end, so if that type of thing bothers you, be aware that is there. However, there are other themes, like fidelity, family (both the good and bad of familial life), and disability/ability that one can glean without having it told to the audience. I personally don’t mind when movies do that in most cases (really, the only animated movie that I’ve actively disliked is Happy Feet which presented its theme in a very confusing way and in an utterly unrealistic ending). Kubo isn’t like that–however, as its theme always derives from its story and the actions of its characters. So, Kubo always makes sense in its formulation of story, plot, and characters. And its fun, too, without being mean-spirited, which is ultimately what I think Happy Feet is–albeit unintentionally.
Overall Grade: B+
I think Kubo and the Two Strings is a strong entry in the animated movie field. There are other movies that I like more than this one, but as both a story and a life-lesson, I think that it really has strong narrative and visual elements that help to make it a must-watch movie at some point. As a Fantasy movie, it also works well, in that it allows the hero to access “magical powers” that are unique to the Eastern Tradition. While the movie doesn’t fully explain his powers, it does explain the hero’s origin, which then suggests how Kubo can do magic (to explain further would probably be “spoilery” so I’ll leave it at that). I really liked it and I only wish that I would have seen it earlier (when the teachers at East Lake were raving about it as I feel it would have been more impactful at that time because I wouldn’t have seen as many Disney animated movies and Pixar movies with which to compare it to.