Kubo and the Two Strings, B
Rated PG, 101 minutes
The captivating new stop-motion animated film "Kubo and the Two Strings" is both engaging and bittersweet, and while some of its themes may dwell slightly above the intended audience, the visuals will still thrill them. Young Kubo's (Art Parkinson) peaceful existence comes crashing down when he accidentally summons a vengeful spirit from the past. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) to unlock a secret legacy. Armed with a magical instrument, Kubo must battle the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and other gods and monsters to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. Directed by Travis Knight (lead animator for "The Boxtrolls" and "Coraline" and son of Nike founder Phil Knight) in his animated feature debut, "Kubo and the Two Strings" is an absorbing, original tale that can be a little sad and intense for young ones, but they'll still get a kick out of some of the characters and scenes. Newcomer Parkinson of "Game of Thrones" grounds the film well as young Kubo, while both Theron and McConaughey give the film some needed energy, and listen for both Fiennes as the evil Moon King while that's Oscar nominee Rooney Mara ("Carol") as the wicked, extremely powerful Sisters, who threaten to destroy Kubo's existence. The middle act is thin and wanders a bit as the threesome get involved in one hijink after another, but it comes together nicely in a touching ending as Kubo finally reconnects with his past to give him some peace. "Kubo and the Two Strings" isn't your typical animated film and lacks some emotional charm of Pixar's efforts, but stands well on its own two feet, with animation that is smoother than many stop-motion efforts. With a heartwarming story and characters, your family should make "Kubo and the Two Strings" something to see.