MOVIE REVIEW: Kubo and the Two Strings
KUBO is a boy who's had to grow up quickly.
Caring for his injured mother while scraping out a living in their small fishing village as a street performer, he's missing the influence of a father figure.
The closest he gets to his dad, a famous Samurai warrior believed to have died saving Kubo, are his mother's occasional stories and the oversized kimono he wears.
This is the jumping off point for the new animated film Kubo and the Two Strings, from the team behind hit stop-motion films Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls.
Like those three films, Kubo and the Two Strings boasts some stunning visuals courtesy of Laika animation studio.
After accidentally reviving an old family vendetta, Kubo must go on a quest (under the watchful eye of his guardian Monkey) to find his father's magical suit of armour to defeat the vengeful spirits pursuing him.
Drawing inspiration from the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Kurosawa, first-time director Travis Knight and his animation team clearly go to great lengths to portray many aspects of Japanese culture.
For instance, 90-year-old choreographer Sahomi Tachibana choreographed the dance sequences for the village's Obon Festival, based on the annual Japanese holiday during which the spirits of ancestors are believed to return to this world to visit their relatives.
But it seems counter productive to me to have Western actors voice the three main characters.
It's jarring to have a Japanese-looking character voiced with an American accent, particularly McConaughey's twang as the insect samurai Beetle and Brenda Vaccaro full-strength New York accent as village Kameyo.
Irish teen Art Parkinson even puts on an American accent as Kubo, who could have easily been voiced by a Japanese-American actor like Ryan Potter from Big Hero 6.
That gripe aside, Kubo and the Two Strings does drive home some important messages for its young viewers including the importance of family, kindness and forgiveness.
Like Coraline and ParaNorman, the film has some darker elements which younger children may find scary and it's best to take heed of the PG rating.
Visually exquisite and well written, Kubo and the Two Strings is worth a family trip to the cinema if you can look past its one major misstep.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Stars: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes.
Director: Travis Knight
Verdict: 3.5/5 stars