Monday, August 29, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Dead parents are so omnipresent in animation that it has become a cliché. It's a quick way to make you empathize with the protagonist while also presenting more opportunities to place that protagonist in harm's way. They have nobody to protect them and must therefore rise to the occasion and save themselves.

While Laika has mostly avoided this trope, death is still very much a presence on all of their work. It is most notable in Kubo and ParaNorman, but that morose atmosphere really hangs over all of their films. The closest cinematic parallel I can find is in the run of death-obsessed, horror films that Val Lewton produced for RKO in the 40's. Though Laika's films aren't so cynical as to subscribe to Lewton's stated sentiment that, "death is good." they are much more honest about grief, the various forms it can take, and the way we all live with it.

I know audiences didn't turn out for Kubo, but I'm optimistic that this will be the year that The Academy finally sees fit to honor this plucky, little studio for what I see as their masterpiece. This is the film where everything they do best comes together in the most satisfying way. It's a real bright-spot in a rather mediocre summer. Don't be scared off by all the crappy family film trailers that play before it.

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