Can Your Kids Handle Kubo?
Our children are accustomed to stories beginning with the words “once upon a time.” Those words immediately alert our kids that something magical is about to be told, something maybe unreal or mystical. Something special. Kubo and the Two Strings begins with its version of “once upon a time” when Kubo, a boy voiced by Art Parkinson, boldly says, “If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see no matter how unusual it may seem. If you look away, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish.”
In the darkened movie theater I felt the hair on my arms rise with excitement. I looked over at my seven-year-old son to see if he felt the same energy and he turned to me and grinned. He was there for it. Kubo and the Two Strings is a story that unfolds beautifully and brilliantly. It is like nothing you have seen before, and yet the tone of the story, that mystical element, may touch on some favorite familiar films from your youth. Remember how you felt the first time you saw The Neverending Story or Labyrinth*? THAT feeling.
What the film is about: Kubo and the Two Strings is a 3D stop-motion animated film. (So, yes, please DO see it in 3D!) The story focuses on a young boy (Kubo) who is an incredibly gifted storyteller with origami. He lives in a Japanese village that encourages his storytelling and he takes care of his ailing mother. One night Kubo stays out too late and accidentally summons a spirit that unleashes a family vendetta. The dark magic destroys his village and the only way Kubo can survive it is to set out on a quest to find the armor once worn by his father.
Any sex/nudity? No. There is a love story that reveals itself.
Language? No. My son would like me to point out that there is “backtalk”. If you are in the process of working on such issues enjoy the small teachable moment.
Violence: This film is dark and there is quite a bit of violence as well as the threat of violence. Characters die. Kubo and his quest partners (Monkey and Beetle) battle against the Sisters (twin sisters who are very much villains in the story) and the Moon King (who my son immediately called Voldemort… for reference).
Fear factor: There are several scenes and characters that have a medium-high ping on the fear-factor chart. Some scenes may be too scary for younger audiences. I brought up Harry Potter and that is a good barometer to think about. If your children are able to work through the tone and theme of the later books and films within the franchise they should be fine with Kubo and his adventures.
What’s the take-away lesson? There is a large take-away lesson I’m not going to share, to do so would spoil a large part of the plot. But one of the most beautiful threads of the story is how families and communities are collectively part of raising children. Kubo is a character who is loved and supported by so many. As parents, we may have a moment where we cannot be there for our child and yet an entire village can step forward for us.
What does my son say? My seven year old can immediately tell you all the parts of the movie that scared him. He also says the movie was very good and “very cool.” His advice is to make sure you sit near someone whose arm you can grab – if you need to. (I’d suggest you know the person in advance.)
I think this film is a must-see. If you are planning on taking the kids, please do show them the trailer and get a feel for their fear level. I appreciated that the trailer for the film showed us how dark the quest story would be and I was able to talk that through with my son before we went. If your family is dealing with loss this may be a hard one and you may want to prescreen it first.
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