Kubo and the Two Strings ****Dir: Travis Knight. Animation with the voices of: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes. 101 mins. Cert: PG
The artisan animators of Laika Studios (Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls) have done much of late to elevate the quality levels of multiplex kids’ fare. Their latest – which looks East, recounting a shamisen-strumming boy’s quest to unpick a tangled family history – fends off questions of cultural appropriation via the refinement and sensitivity of its penhand: it’s less an aggressive play for the Asian market than an affectionate gesture towards it. Avoiding noisy setpieces allows director Travis Knight time and space to fold his enchanted universe into origami-striking shapes, work in more stories-within-stories, and make a thoroughly sincere engagement with the hero’s loss: even the talking monkey sidekick is a (comically) serious, heartbroken presence. The 3D again feels a touch superfluous – or perhaps Laika are too much the aesthetes to exploit its in-your-face properties. Either way, the whole arrives as cherishable proof that it is still possible, amid heightened commercial imperatives, for digimators to push for reflective, affecting art.
Kubo and the Two Strings is now playing in cinemas nationwide.