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Travis Knight
Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes
Writing Credits:
Marc Haimes, Chris Butler

A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armour worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.

Box Office:
$60 Million.
Opening Weekend
$12,608,372 on 3260 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DVS
Spanish DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 11/22/2016

• Audio Commentary with Director Travis Knight
• “Kubo’s Journey” Featurettes
• “Corners of the Earth” Featurette
• “The Myth of Kubo” Featurette
• Previews
• DVD Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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Kubo and the Two Strings [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 5, 2019)

For the fourth stop-motion animated film from Laika, we head to 2016’s Kubo and the Two Strings. Set in feudal Japan, we meet a 12-year-old boy named Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson).

With a dead father and an ill mother (Charlize Theron), Kubo needs to support the family. He does so via origami he magically brings to life with musical skills, as he uses these talents to busk in the town square.

Unfortunately, Kubo’s special abilities go too far and he summons dark, vengeful spirits. This sends Kubo on a quest to stop the threat and also learn important secrets about his past.

Laika efforts tend to receive more praise than ticket sales, and Strings followed that trend. It earned a mere $69 million worldwide, so with a $60 million budget, it clearly lost money.

That was the worst gross of the four Laika efforts to that point, but each and every one failed to turn a profit. I guess I can go glass is half full and feel grateful that studios continued to fund Laika’s projects anyway, though after the dismal box office failure of 2019’s Missing Link, I wonder if that can continue.

I hope so because Laika creates such interesting and unusual work. While I’ve not always loved their films, I adore the artistry of their animation and their willingness to embrace darker themes atypical of “kiddie movies”.

An homage to the work of Akira Kurosawa and other Japanese filmmakers, Strings definitely can go with a more somber tone than one might expect. That said, I don’t think it takes as many risks as some other Laika movies, mainly because it offers a fairly standard “hero’s journey” tale.

Well, “fairly typical” for a film in which a monkey and a beetle flirt with each other. Strings goes down a slew of unusual paths like that, but at its core, we’ve seen this sort of story many times in the past.

That doesn’t mean Strings can’t find its own creative elements, of course, and aspects of Kubo’s trek offer delight. I especially like the battle he and his partners wage against a giant skeleton monster, as these moments leap off the screen.

I just feel like Strings falls a little flat, as it doesn’t shine on a consistent basis. The film fares best when it emphasizes the drama and its horror vibe, as its comedy tends to feel forced.

I get that movies need ways to alleviate the tension, and given the potentially youthful audience, comedy seems like a logical component. The gags just seem out of place too much of the time and lack the wit I’d expect.

When Strings sticks with its bread and butter, it better fulfills its potential. With their semi-Guy Fawkes masks, Kubo’s aunts become the most compelling characters, as they become spooky and ominous.

I just wish Strings could maintain that level of success on a more consistent basis. While I think the movie entertains overall, it feels just a little less impactful than I’d prefer.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Kubo and the Two Strings appears in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a terrific visual presentation.

From start to finish, sharpness looked great. At no time did any softness interfere, so I found a tight, precise image.

The movie lacked jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent as well. No print flaws appeared.

Like most modern films, Strings opted for a mix of orange and teal. These tones appeared well-rendered here.

Blacks appeared dark and dense, while shadows seemed smooth and concise. Everything about the image looked great.

While not quite as satisfying, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack still managed to fare nicely, with a soundscape that featured music as a lively participant. The score filled out the five channels in a broad, engaging way that used the music well.

Effects didn’t have as much to do, but they still added range to the package. When necessary, the various elements fleshed out the spectrum to give us material that seemed well-placed and that blended smoothly.

Audio quality excelled, with speech that appeared natural and concise. Effects showed nice accuracy and range.

Again, music worked best of all, with clear tones that boasted excellent low-end. Bass response satisfied across the board, as the mix used the LFE channel to nice effect. I liked this track quite a lot.

As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Travis Knight. He provides a running, screen-specific look at… pretty much everything.

At the start, Knight warns us to enter his chat with low expectations because Kubo represents his first commentary. Don’t believe him, as he handles the assignment like a veteran.

Knight really does touch on just about every topic you’d like to hear, and he does so with wit, detail and insight. We even learn that Laika gives the animators in-house yoga lessons to alleviate muscle issues endemic to the job!

Knight makes this a top-notch commentary. Not a single moment of the movie passes without useful information, so go into this one with high expectations, as it becomes a genuinely great track.

Under Kubo’s Journey, we find six segments that last a total of 28 minutes, 34 seconds: “Introduction” (0:50), “Japanese Inspiration” (5:56), “Mythological Monsters” (9:19), “Braving the Elements” (4:29), “The Redemptive and Healing Power of Music” (5:48) and “Epilogue” (2:12).

Across these, we hear from Knight, costume designer Deborah Cook, art director Alice Bird, production designer Nelson Lowry, consultant/interpreter Taro Goto, producer Arianne Sutner, concept artist Trevor Dalmer, rigging supervisor Oliver Jones, lead model builder Raul Martinez, animation riggers Brian Elliott and Jerry Svoboda, animation supervisor Brad Schiff, animator Charles Greenfield, lighting/camera lead Dean Holmes, VFX supervisor Steve Emerson, director of rapid prototyping Brian McLean, lead FX artist David Horsley, composer Dario Marianelli, music editor James Bellamy, musician Hibiki Ichikawa, and actors Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, George Takei, Art Parkinson and Charlize Theron.

“Journey” looks at Japanese influences, costumes/sets, creature design and creation, animation and effects, and music. This doesn’t become an especially deep dive into the production, but it comes with enough good material to sustain it.

Corners of the Earth fills three minutes, 12 seconds and features Knight, Bird, Dalmer, Lowry, Emerson, and head of shop Darcy Nelson. “Earth” examines the design and creation of the film’s sets. It’s a short but informative clip.

Finally, The Myth of Kubo spans two minutes, 33 seconds and brings notes from Knight, Sutner, Theron, writer Chris Butler, and actor Matthew McConaughey. “Myth” examines the scope/scale of the film, but it largely feels promotional.

The disc opens with ads for Secret Life of Pets, Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon and Phantom Boy. Previews adds promos for ParaNorman, BoxTrolls, Coraline, The Young Messiah and Ratchet and Clank. No trailer for Strings appears here.

Despite some fantastic elements and gorgeous animation, Kubo and the Two Strings presents a fairly standard mix of “hero’s journey” and “coming of age” tales. For the most part, it entertains, but it seems a little on the inconsistent side. The Blu-ray brings excellent picture and audio along with supplements highlighted by an impressive commentary. I like Strings but don’t love it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
1 3:
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