I defy the Moon King himself to dispute my Kubo And The Two Strings (2016) Review

Breathtakingly beautiful, Laika’s latest stop motion animation is a dazzling, inspired medley of Japanese and Chinese folklore and a joyous celebration of the power and importance of storytelling.

A young boy named Kubo must find and reclaim his father’s lost armour in order to battle and defeat a vengeful enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy him. With only Monkey and Beetle to guide him, he must journey across land and sea to find the means to defeat the Moon King.

Running through Laika’s back catalogue is a strong thread of artistic ambition and technical achievement and their latest creation pushes the art form forward once again.

The intricacy and complexity of the visuals of “Kubo And The Two Strings” is reason enough to enjoy this sumptuous film on the biggest possible canvas but the story itself recommends the movie even more. Respecting its audience, both young and old, it doesn’t give away its secrets all at once, instead unfurling carefully and deliberately like one of Kubo’s exquisite origami creations. There’s a richness to the mythology and the construction of the narrative that it comes as something of a surprise that it’s an original tale and not an adaptation of some ancient text. Sure, there’s evocations of “Journey To The West” but this tale of family, forbidden love and vengeful magic is its own creation, a deliciously dark and occasionally scary creation  – younger children may find the Sisters a little too much; the youngest Craggling (age 3) certainly did – underpinned by warmth, humanity and wickedly clever humour.

The needlessly starry voice cast nevertheless give their all with Charlize Theron particularly impressing as the taciturn and sardonic Monkey although it wouldn’t have harmed the film at all to have been more authentic in its casting of the central characters rather than just wheeling out George Takei to ham it up with an ‘Oh myyyyy’ early on.

It’s a minor quibble though and “Kubo And The Two Strings” is easily the best animated movie of the year, and a contender for best film of the year too. Family films of this quality, both technical and artistic, don’t come along all that often and should be cherished when they do.