Think Coraline rather than Cars here…
We’ve Found Dory, and now Kubo appears amongst a deluge of imminent kids and family releases. Some of the current trailers look like a movie version of a Dulux colour chart, but in 3D, with some celebrity voices you may or may not know, mixed over a few slightly similar sounding pop tracks from artists who have a great relationship with Pepsi or Nike. And there’s probably a themed Happy Meal coming to a fast food restaurant near you… with a rubbish plastic toy that might last as long as that very afternoon before disintegrating.
I’m here to tell you – it’s going to be ok.
Kubo and The Two Strings, and it’s beautifully crafted stop motion, are here to save us, although they might freak out a few littl’uns.
Parental advice – Watch the trailer, read the BBFC guidelines, know your kids, protect them from the Witches…
So straight out of the gates when you investigate beyond the trailer, this latest film has been made by the brains behind the dark, surreal, and a little unsettling “Coraline”. A cartoon film that could have been made by someone like Tim Burton, with Hunter.S.Thompson on screenwriting.
Coraline was definitely an acquired taste – weirder, darker and more surreal than most kids and their parents may expect or be comfortable with.
Kubo is not quite as dark, but it can still be pretty dark. It has moments of being outright scary and uses fantastical, suggested violence. The creative team have played down the surrealism a tad, but haven’t totally pulled their punches.
The film’s occasional moments of imagined, allegorical violence are brutal through suggestion, and the bad guys / girls are pretty spooky too. There is however an overarching laconic beauty to be found in this celebration of the culture, folklore and story of those we follow. Kubo has an amazing grasp of this – visually, audibly and narratively, flirting in the realms of Hayao Myazaki’s Spirited Sway etc.
We are welcomed in to this world, which is both earthly and unearthly. It rarely plays for laughs but does deliver a few subtly along the way. The story and the characters become increasingly engaging with a fitting cast to give this weight.
This film may possibly be more for adults than kids, although imaginative and brave younger audiences will still find plenty to enjoy. But be assured this really is no Disney or Pixar. Can you remember what Wes Anderson did with Fantastic Mr Fox ? This is different yet similar in this dual purpose and vision. The A-list voice cast appear to have picked a project because it is good, not just for the extra bucks.
If you are an open minded adult, let alone someone looking for something to watch with the kids (heed earlier warning) – go with this, I don’t think the trailer captures just how good this is.
Enchanting, clever, memorable film making, with brains and bravery that these days you rarely get packaged into around 100 minutes. 9/10