I took my nephew to see this a couple weekends ago, and we both LOVED it so much, we went back this weekend and took my sister.
It is beautiful, and dark, and heartwarming, and thrilling, strange and fantastic, funny and sad, and ultimately a satisfying movie. The stop-motion animation is gorgeous and amazing. There are several shots I'd love to have as stills on my wall. (I know I've probably said this before, but I've really come to realize how important nature's beauty in a movie is to me.)
I love the story and setting. Ancient Japan and Samurai and folklore are right up my alley. I love all of the characters. Kubo is fantastic as the young protagonist. It's very easy to see why my nephew loves this movie so much. Here's a young character that he very much wants to be. Someone who cares for his mother when she can't care for herself, who tells and creates fabulous stories, who has magic, who goes on a quest, and who can ultimately stand on his own. Monkey and Beetle are hilarious and strong and protective. They nicely balance out the darker segments with their humor and warmth. Their interactions with each other are so funny, and also so poignant. I think that's one of the things I love and appreciate so much about this movie. This isn't a light fluffy movie with crude humor. It has substance, it doesn't shy away from death of loved ones, the humorous moments are genuine, and it sticks with you after you leave the theater. Even my sister said the same thing, that it's one of those films that won't leave your mind later. You keep rolling things around.
My nephew's favorite characters are the aunts, I don't know why. They were his favorites from just seeing the movie trailer, and they stayed favorites after seeing the movie. They are deliciously creepy and otherworldly and deadly.
The action scenes are great, and so stunning when you remember they're all stop-motion. Boy, I admire the film makers who have the patience to make something like this! There's a great segment in the end credits showing a tiny part of how the movie is made. We all can't wait to own this one on DVD.
My favorite scene is probably on the Long Lake, with the storm raging. I love the juxtaposition of the fight on the boat and the quiet of the underwater scenes with the giant mesmerizing eyeballs. Monkey and Beetle are both great here.