By John Mulderig
While it uses animation to recount the fantastical adventures of a young boy, Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus) is not really suitable for the most youthful moviegoers.
Adolescents and grown-ups, on the other hand, will likely have no difficulty appreciating the artistic achievement of director Travis Knight’s feature debut, while simultaneously placing in their proper context those elements within it that are at odds with Christian belief.
Set in Japan at an unspecified period, this captivating fable follows Kubo (voice of Art Parkinson), a street urchin, as his troubled – indeed, literally haunted – family history launches him on a quest for a magical set of armour.
He’s accompanied, and protected, on the journey by a prudent monkey (voiced by Charlize Theron) and a courageous but accursed samurai, (voice of Matthew McConaughey) whose body a spell has transformed into that of a beetle.
Rich visuals along Kubo’s odyssey are matched by the deep emotional appeal of the interaction among the characters. And melancholy alternates with touches of wit in Marc Haimes and Chris Butler’s well-crafted screenplay.
But conflicted familial relationships – Kubo’s principal adversary is his own grandfather, the Moon King (voice of Ralph Fiennes) – make this too serious, and potentially upsetting, for kids. Equally, an outlook on death suggesting that the departed survive only in the memory of the living would probably confuse impressionable viewers.
Most teens, however, will recognise that the story is obviously far removed from real life and that plot ingredients borrowed from the Land of the Rising Sun’s native mythology need not be taken to heart.
The film contains non-scriptural religious beliefs and stylised combat with minimal gore. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.