Kubo and the Two Strings

Opening and closing with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," this dazzling story from Oregon-based Laika studio instantly sweeps us into a visual wonderland with a storm at sea...  (I'm wondering, why name a movie studio after the poor Russian stray who earned immortality by being the first dog to fly...and die...in space?)

Directed by Travis Knight ("Coraline"), this PG-rated stop-action movie takes us to an unnamed Asian land where a little boy spins fantastical stories at the local market (note the men playing Go). They are illustrated with origami figures of his own creation but they never have an ending. Before and after his gig in the village, he tenderly cares for his deeply traumatized mother, haunted by a tragedy in her past. Is it related to the incident that cost our little boy his left eye?

In keeping with a popular trend, they have cast successful actors to voice the characters. I am NOT in favor of this trend, as these actors are already visible enough and by hogging the limelight they are displacing some terrific voice actors who would love the chance to show you what they can do!

The characters (I'll name the actors in brackets; they are adequate but not outstanding):
  • Kubo (Art Parkinson) plays a three-stringed instrument and entertains the villagers. He longs for his absent father and has been told that his aunts are responsible for the loss of his eye. He's an honest, earnest, hard-working little boy. He says, "If you must blink, do it now.'
  • Kameyo (Brenda Vaccaro) is the sweet old woman in the village who is Kubo's best fan (but she would like him to include a chicken in one of his stories because chickens are funny).
  • Monkey (Charlize Theron) is a cranky demanding sidekick. She gives Kubo three questions and he na├»vely uses them up before he has learned a single thing! She's a good sidekick though and he's lucky to have her.
  • Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) has delusions of adequacy. He's certainly willing and strong enough but he's a tad simple... When he learns who Kubo's father was, he swears undying fealty.
  • The Sisters (Rooney Mara) These evil witches are both violent and malevolent.
Let me emphasize that this is NOT a Disney movie. If you remember Coraline, it has scary scenes and violent battles. For example, here when a baby is washed up on a beach, we notice it is missing an eye, so this is not what many youngsters expect.

I found myself a bit confused, even using closed captions (which are spotty, by the way) because the mythology was unfamiliar. The artistry is terrific and the intention is honorable, but despite the rave reviews, this was just not as involving as I expected. Sorry...
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is a sample:
* * * * * * * * * * * *