by Daniel LeBaron
Kubo and the Two Strings will spark meaningful discussion about family and the power of story in everyday life. It will also provoke deep thought about memory and how to present oneself to posterity.
Kubo is engaging both audio-visually and in storytelling. It is easy to forget that this film was created using stop-motion animation as the viewer is transported into a magically beautiful world. A scene near the climax, however, leaves a bad taste in the mouth as a large moon-beast puppet struggles across the screen.
The plot is basic (a young boy under threat from some opposition goes on a journey of self-discovery while seeking three mystic objects); but, what the plot lacks in novelty it makes up for in a fresh, thoughtful recountal. It is ambiguous at times, but this enhances the overall beauty of the film. One can sense the Japanese aesthetic of mono no aware, a gentle sadness about the transient nature of things. In this case it is tempered with an optimistic outlook for the future that draws strength from the past.
Although Kubo has substantial American influence in its creation and casting, it comes off as deferential to the Japanese style it uses–rather than merely co-opting it. The starkness of the film and a few frightening scenes, makes this a bit heavy for young children. But, make no doubt, there is plenty of lightheartedness throughout.
After viewing, families can discuss what it means to have each other as their quest. They can share how their own family history provides strength and vision in times of trial. Stories about our family show us ordinary people learning to face their own challenges. This vulnerability, knowing that our ancestors were human too, and seeing what they were able to accomplish gives us faith that we can do the same. Kubo and the Two Strings professes that seeing and sharing this humanity with each other is one of life’s greatest treasures.
For Mormons, with such a rich tradition of sharing and recording family histories, this film makes a worthwhile addition to video-libraries at homes everywhere.