A little bit of movie magic for its own sake. It's a welcome, albeit only slight shift from the norm of American animation serving other interests first, but Kubo and the Two Strings' devotion to its artistry is the most persuasive conceivable use of Laika's technical and design prowess. That their flair for imagery and ideas is suffused with emotional weight and sincerity serves as further enhancement - it's a sensitive film that's nonetheless forceful in its effect, and a fine, layered accord between concept and realization. Travis Knight is working from a variably effective scenario, one whose diligence in its thematic detail is undercut by its adherence to formula; much as Knight succeeds in transcending formula with seductive visuals married to an often powerful plot, Kubo is an innately simple, familiar affair. It's the little stylistic surprises, and the big ones, eventually so ubiquitous as to startle no longer (though never losing their appeal) that rescue the film from its less adventurous impulses; limitless heartfelt sympathy and an edgy strain of unexpectedly piquant humour add further colour. It is thus that Knight displays the adventurousness of his vision, in overcoming the fundamental normality that resides at the heart of this project, in transforming it into genuine movie magic, not merely in what treasures we see nor hear, but in those that we feel too. Kubo is yet another American studio animation, but it strives to be more, and the earnest efforts of a team of true artists help it achieve exactly that.