Critics Consensus

Kubo and the Two Strings Is Certified Fresh

Plus, War Dogs plays it a little too safe, and Ben-Hur is an unnecessary remake.

by | August 18, 2016 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a kid with magic powers (Kubo and the Two Strings, with voice performances by Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey), rogue arms dealers (War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller), and a fallen prince (Ben-Hur, starring Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman). What do the critics have to say?

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) 97%

They’ve yet to release a blockbuster on par with one of the bigger animation houses, but the folks at Laika have built an impressive reputation over the last several years — a span that’s seen the studio release a trio of critically acclaimed feature-length efforts with Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. Their fourth film, Kubo and the Two Strings, looks like it’ll extend that distinguished streak; as with earlier Laika productions, reviews describe a viewing experience that’s as visually thrilling as it is narratively satisfying. An action epic set in feudal Japan, Kubo stars Game of Thrones vet Art Parkinson as the titular hero, who’s forced to embark on a quest to save his loved ones after inadvertently summoning an evil spirit whose arrival may hold the key to unlocking painful secrets from his family’s past. It’s far from the sunniest family-friendly release you’ll see this summer, but for viewers comfortable with — or seeking out — more melancholy fare, critics say Kubo and the Two Strings offers rich rewards.

War Dogs (2016) 60%

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as a couple of freewheeling young bros selling arms in a ripped-from-the-headlines comedy directed by Hangover vet Todd Phillips? It might sound like a recipe for an R-rated gonzo funnybone tickler, but according to critics, while War Dogs definitely has its share of laughs, it’s actually a somewhat sobering look at the real-life dirty deeds of some of the world’s more unscrupulous individuals. In fact, that’s one of the movie’s biggest problems: while the reviews describe an entertaining enough effort, they also express general disappointment at its unwillingness or inability to take a nasty bite out of a story that truly deserves it. Hill in particular has been singled out as well worth watching for a bravura performance in a role that takes advantage of his dramatic breadth, but this might be a tale more satisfyingly told with a documentary.

Ben-Hur (2016) 25%

Last weekend, Disney hit critical paydirt with Pete’s Dragon, a remake of a movie few would have argued deserved classic status. Now Paramount takes the opposite approach with Ben-Hur, an updated take on the 1880 Lew Wallace novel that was turned into a classic 1925 silent film and whose 1959 adaptation was a Best Picture-winning smash that still ranks among the more widely acclaimed movies of all time. Needless to say, Timur Bekmambetov‘s new version of the biblically inspired tale has some pretty big shoes to fill, and as far as most critics are concerned, it’s nowhere near up to snuff: reviews point to an earnest would-be epic whose heart might be in the right place, but whose reach almost completely exceeds its grasp. While the climactic chase scene benefits from modern technology, fans of the 1925 and 1959 versions will find this one suffers mightily in comparison — and those who haven’t seen a Ben-Hur of an earlier vintage are urged to seek them out instead.

Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

Tag Cloud

Comic Book El Rey Britbox Polls and Games Amazon Tomatazos YA crossover E3 historical drama Epix cats Red Carpet FX CNN Star Wars Syfy FOX crime thriller sports Countdown Pop Musical CBS blaxploitation Set visit 45 MCU GLAAD SXSW Extras See It Skip It Election Superheroe Netflix TBS sitcom social media Paramount Network cops ITV Pixar war serial killer Interview BET Infographic Musicals Opinion Action Comics on TV WGN The CW ESPN Quiz Paramount harry potter FXX Year in Review 21st Century Fox SDCC Awards Kids & Family GIFs cinemax Fox News TCM cults thriller Oscars Crackle Song of Ice and Fire Winter TV Trivia DC Comics Calendar doctor who Mary Tyler Moore Photos mutant Mary poppins GoT E! Premiere Dates Fall TV Starz zombie Pirates singing competition Captain marvel The Arrangement Black Mirror SundanceTV Star Trek Comedy Central Masterpiece Universal Sundance Now DirecTV police drama X-Men San Diego Comic-Con MTV YouTube Red jamie lee curtis ratings Creative Arts Emmys travel Apple Reality Competition VICE Lifetime MSNBC period drama LGBTQ crime A&E Super Bowl DGA Toys National Geographic Columbia Pictures Mary Poppins Returns crime drama New York Comic Con History Warner Bros. science fiction Cosplay Drama Emmys festivals Logo Ovation PBS green book Sneak Peek BBC CMT based on movie 2018 Animation TCA docudrama Horror Sci-Fi Tumblr binge Music Christmas First Look TIFF cooking Thanksgiving AMC Video Games facebook Holidays CW Seed spy thriller Walt Disney Pictures IFC Rocky Lionsgate Spring TV USA technology DC streaming service Watching Series IFC Films Freeform spider-man 24 frames 007 HBO Mindy Kaling adventure Nickelodeon APB Disney Channel Showtime BBC America vampires Brie Larson transformers Rom-Com robots Hulu 2015 hist TLC Food Network Esquire TNT justice league Rock 2019 zombies finale Marathons Ghostbusters President Spike Shudder YouTube Premium Podcast TV Western Sundance USA Network casting Martial Arts discovery American Society of Cinematographers unscripted anime Certified Fresh Fantasy award winner Bravo Mystery miniseries Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Marvel Adult Swim Schedule Summer Biopics Chilling Adventures of Sabrina streaming Reality Comedy dc politics Valentine's Day romance Lucasfilm Ellie Kemper talk show Trophy Talk 2017 dramedy Nominations medical drama television psycho RT History comiccon golden globes Trailer political drama Grammys boxoffice biography TruTV what to watch Character Guide Best and Worst VH1 OWN Writers Guild of America NYCC aliens Dark Horse Comics composers supernatural TCA 2017 NBC PaleyFest comic TV Land Awards Tour Nat Geo dceu Box Office Amazon Prime Disney 20th Century Fox Acorn TV Sony Pictures Teen diversity ABC Winners CBS All Access ABC Family Cartoon Network Superheroes 2016 Shondaland Country DC Universe