Granted, it’s a formula that is proven to work, but you know the tropes: excessive narration, ordinary people getting rich or powerful doing extraordinary and often illegal activities played by colorful actors or actresses, dramatic license spinning a likely lesser true story, a kicking period soundtrack, pervasive drug use, freeze-frame shots to stamp moments, and a tidy epilogue of comeuppance. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also lazily standing on the shoulders of giants. That’s the impact and existence of Todd Phillips’s “War Dogs” in a gun… err… nutshell.
Laika Entertainment, the Portland-based and Phil Knight-backed stop-motion animation studio that brought you “Coraline,” “ParaNorman, and “The Boxtrolls” have outdone themselves with their newest effort. “Kubo and the Two Strings” leaps off the screen with an original foreign folk tale that employs a rich originality and builds a strong base of emotional connection that rivals its Disney/Pixar contemporaries. Everything about its surface is finely crafted and creatively awe-inspiring. Who and what lies behind this film’s skin are its most egregious flaws that keep it from being a justifiable, full-fledged classic.