KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS — Review by Susan Granger

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Beginning with the ominous warning – “If you must blink, do it now” – because “if you look away, even for an instant, our hero will surely perish.” Set in ancient Japan, this animated fantasy-adventure revolves around an 11 year-old boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson), a story-telling musician whose skill at origami (the art of paper-folding) resonates with Hosato (George Takei), Akhiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and Kameyo (Brenda Vaccaro). Read on…

While taking care of his ailing mother, who warns him to be home before nightfall, the tranquility of Kubo’s life is suddenly shattered when he accidentally breaks a supernatural curse.

Accompanied by a snarky, sassy Monkey guardian (Charlize Theron), Kubo flees, determined to acquire three specific pieces of armor that belonged to his late samurai-warrior father in order to fulfill his destiny.

Joined by a genial, wisecracking, weapons-savvy Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) – with the help of his magical shamisen (lute) which brings his origami figures to life – Kubo battles malevolent spirits, like his mother’s twin Sisters (Rooney Mara), and his grandfather, the vengeful Moon King (Ralph Fiennes).

Created over a period of five years by the Portland, Oregon-based, stop-motion animation company, Laika Films (“Coraline,” ParaNorman,” “The Boxtrolls”), it’s written by Marc Haimes & Chris Butler and directed by Laika’s president/CEO, Travis Knight, son of Nike chairman Phil Knight.

While the folkloric story seems needlessly complicated, the hand-crafted, painstakingly detailed imagery – inspired by dolls from Japan’s late Edo period (early 1600s-mid-1800s) – is dazzling, seamlessly blending art with computer technology.

Stop-motion animation utilizes tiny puppets with steel armatures, covered with cloth costumes, silicon skin and manufactured hair. Filming takes place on tabletops in large warehouses, as rippled shower glass and torn bits of paper on a moveable metal grid create the illusion of undulating ocean waves.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Kubo and the Two Strings” is a visually stunning 8, delivering delightful, family-friendly entertainment.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.