‘If you must blink, do it now’ are the opening words of Kubo and the Two Strings, a glorious animated adventure from stop-motion masters Laika, the studio behind Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls.
Take note. What follows is truly spellbinding, a thrilling, touching and visually resplendent celebration of the power of storytelling set in a mystical ancient Japan. You really won’t want to tear your eyes from the screen as the film unfolds.
The eponymous hero is a one-eyed 11-year-old boy, winningly voiced by Art Parkinson, who supports his sickly mother by telling stories in the local village, his tales enchantingly acted out by magical origami figures in response to the music of his lute-like three-stringed shamisen. But less benign magic also exists in this world. And Kubo, his mother warns, has powerful enemies.
His vengeful grandfather the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) stole one of his eyes when he was a baby and will not rest before he has taken the other one. To remain safe, Kubo must always return home before dark. One day, however, he disobeys his mother’s admonition and stays out after sunset. His evil aunts find him and strike. In the wake of the attack, Kubo is forced to flee, accompanied by a talking monkey (Charlize Theron) and an amnesiac fallen samurai (Matthew McConaughey), now half-human, half-beetle.
The trio’s subsequent adventures are by turns comical, gripping and creepy – with the appearances of Kubo’s aunts, voiced by Rooney Mara, striking a genuinely eerie note. But what casts the film’s most potent spell is the exquisite animation, haunted by centuries of Japanese art and thoroughly bewitching throughout.
Certificate PG. Runtime 102 mins. Director Travis Knight
Kubo and the Two Strings is available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.