Here are two of engaging and thoughtful animated features for all to enjoy.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Travis Knight, 102 min., 2016
An engaging, “blinking” quest
“If you must blink, do it now,” says young, one-eyed Kubo (Art Parkinson does a fine job providing the voice for the boy who must gather his long-gone father’s sword, vest and helmet in order to fulfill his destiny) on more than one occasion.
Kubo revels in playing his three-string shamisen and telling stories of his heroic dad, Hanzo, apparently a samurai warrior of the first rank.
Along for the harrowing ride are Monkey (Charlize Theron brings the fearless animal to engaging life and also voices Kubo’s mother) and Beetle (showing remarkable versatility voicing the zany insect’s character is Matthew McConaughey). Origami Hanzo, quite literally modelled by Kubo as the spitting image of his father, proves invaluable in directing the unlikely trio in the right direction: you’d think he was the real McCoy…
Once fully outfitted, Kubo must take on an enraged Moon King (Ralph Fiennes deftly doing the voicing honours) but not before duking it out with his mother’s evil sisters, (both portrayed by Rooney Mara who positively revels on the dark side).
While there’s never any doubt Kubo will prevail, it is Knight’s fast-paced direction along with his talented army of animators and effects wizards that will keep audiences of all ages caught up in the truly fantastic action.
The metaphor of seeing the world through one eye and unravelling its mysteries is a timely notion in this age of willful blindness by those who ought to know better. JWR
Walt Dohrn, Mike Mitchell, 93 min., 2016
What price, happiness?
Amidst this awards season’s thought-provoking and disturbing documentaries (cross-reference below) it’s a welcome relief to cozy up to cuddly Trolls and remind ourselves that not everything is gloom and doom.
The pursuit of happiness is artfully examined from two points of view: the Trolls, who exude joy and have appointed hug times and the Bergens, who can only, er, taste happiness by eating a Troll. The names of the two societies is no coincidence once the first notes from Edward Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” are heard.
The production is a literal riot of colour, toe-tapping musical numbers (“Hair Up” is a hoot), numerous escapes from deadly peril along with a couple of romances. Ignore the plot and savour the fun.
The casting is excellent, notably Anna Kendrick as queen-in-training Poppy, Justin Timberlake as the reluctant singer, Branch as well as Zooey Deschanel as Bridget—a down-on-her-luck chambermaid whose makeover makes her fit for a King. JWR