Kubo mesmerizes the people in his village with his magical gift for spinning wild tales with origami. When he accidentally summons an evil spirit seeking vengeance, Kubo is forced to go on a quest to solve the mystery of his fallen samurai father and his mystical weaponry, as well as discover his own magical powers.
|Release Date||:||August 18, 2016|
|Genres||:||Animation, Adventure, Family|
|Production Company||:||Focus Features, Laika Entertainment|
|Production Countries||:||United States of America|
|Writers||:||Shannon Tindle, Marc Haimes, Marc Haimes, Chris Butler|
|Casts||:||Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Brenda Vaccaro, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, George Takei, Minae Noji, Saemi Nakamura, Alpha Takahashi, Michael Sun Lee, Laura Miro, Ken Takemoto, Aaron Aoki, Thomas Isao Morinaka, Rachel Morihiro, Cary Yoshio Mizobe, Meyrick Murphy, Ranjani Brow|
|Plot Keywords||:||samurai, magic, stop motion, storytelling|
I expected big things from Kubo. Those expectations were met on a purely superficial level. The film looks beautiful and the meticulousness of the stop motion craft is clear for all to see, but the story had major problems.
After the striking opening of mother and son caught in a tumultuous storm that dashes them against rocks and washes both ashore, we have a watchable, if slightly dull 20 minutes of exposition and establishing character goals before it quickly devolves into a predictable rehash of the 3 act hero structure. The young, one-eyed, but infinitely resourceful Kubo sets off on a quest to find 3 fabled pieces of armour so he can do battle with his evil grandfather up in the heavens, who just can't stand humans and their silly "feels" (but you know of course that 'feels' are exactly what will triumph in the end (cue eye-roll)).
The ease in which Kubo finds these items in such quick succession doesn't really feel suitably epic and there's no real sense of how far he actually has to travel, he just always conveniently ends up right where he needs to be. There's no real sense of danger either, despite the odious threat of his sinister aunts coming to steal his good eye so they might blind him to humanity, you never once feel like this might actually happen.
Overall, it felt to me like the writers thought up a bunch of cool set pieces they could throw at the viewer, and then tried to weave a script around those. The 'banter' between Kubo's companions Monkey and Beatle, serves as empty filler between action sequences; Their constant squabbling is over-played and annoying. It also bugged me that despite the lovingly realized visual depiction of ancient Japan, the characters acted and sounded so American.
The menacing twin aunts (voiced by Rooney Mara) and the fantastic origami action were high points and very entertaining. However, mostly I was bored and consciously predicting lazy story arcs. It just wasn't a satisfying experience and it's a shame for Laika to spend so much time and effort crafting animation for a contrived, generic story which failed to deliver any emotional weight.