Kubo and the Two Strings Parent Guide
Parents be forewarned: Although amazingly crafted, this abstract and metephorical stop-frame animation is aimed at an artsy audience --not young viewers.
Parent Movie Review
“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.”
Thus states the opening narration of Kubo and the Two Strings. And it is good advice. Although I’m not sure the hero will perish, I can assure you that anything short of total concentration will kill the viewer’s hopes of following this abstract and metaphorical plotline. It should also serve as a caution to parents: Don’t assume that a “cartoon” featuring a young protagonist is intended to be children’s entertainment. Instead, this stop-frame animation is aiming to impress an older, artsier crowd. It also wouldn’t hurt if that group had some basic understanding of Asian customs and religious philosophies.
While I don’t entirely fit the demographic this movie is targeting, I still appreciated its beautiful craftsmanship, as well as some of its more universal themes and worthwhile messages. So, if you are prepared to give it a concerted effort, here is what you can expect from the latest endeavor of Laika Entertainment (Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls).
Kubo (voice of Art Parkinson) is a youngster living with his widowed mother (voice of Charlize Theron) in a secluded cave. It is a secure place for her, because her mind wanders. And she claims it is a good hiding spot for him because her evil father (voice of Ralph Fiennes) and sisters (voiced by Rooney Mara) are trying to find the boy and steal his one remaining eye. (Apparently they took the first one when he was a baby. That is why his mom fled from her family and the reason his Dad is dead.) According to her wild tale, where she calls the villain The Moon King, in order to be safe Kubo must never be out after dark.
Whether true or not, her paranoia provides great inspiration for the stories Kubo tells in the local village, where the amused townsfolk toss him a few coins. His impressive act includes playing a guitar-like instrument (a tree-stringed shamisen) that magically brings some origami figures to life. These paper characters act out the adventures Kubo describes. But this simple life comes to an end the night he delays his return to his rocky home until after the moon has come out.
Within moments, two terrifying female figures appear and try to capture Kubo and return him to his powerful grandfather. Only an act of magic is able to postpone the immediate danger, but it also sets him on a perilous quest to find three pieces of armor. To protect and guide him, he has been given a talking monkey (voice of Charlize Theron) as a companion. Along the way the pair encounters a human-faced beetle (voice of Matthew McConaughey) with delusions of once being a Samurai warrior. This often-silly, six-armed soldier insists on joining them.
As you can imagine, things get pretty bizarre as the trio battles a large skeleton, gets hypnotized by giant eyeballs, and faces off against a dragon/snake-like creature. Injuries and deaths result. Yet these difficult circumstances provide the characters with an opportunity to talk about the importance of love and family, beliefs about life after death, and the purpose of sorrow during mortality.
These deep topics, as well as the visuals that accompany them, will be confusing for little ones at best, and just plain scary at worst. That’s why I’d suggest leaving this challenge for those teens and adults who enjoy trying to puzzle a plot together, and are content even if they can’t place all of the pieces. However, connoisseurs who look at animation as an art form, will most likely find this amazing production to be the masterpiece they were hoping for. Just be careful not to blink!Directed by Travis Knight. Starring Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey. Running time: 101 minutes. Theatrical release August 19, 2016. Updated July 17, 2017
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rating & Content Info
Why is Kubo and the Two Strings rated PG? Kubo and the Two Strings is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril.
Violence: Characters engage in battles and fights with various weapons, including arrows, swords, chains and hooks. Some wounds, blood and scars are shown. A character has a missing eye (he wears an eyepatch) and is being hunted by family members who want to take away his other one. Origami figures fight with one another, and paper limbs are cut off. Discussions occur about the death of a parent who was killed protecting his family. Other family members are portrayed as evil and murderous. Scary characters and frightening/bizarre creatures are depicted. Magical transformations occur. Characters, including a child, are in life threatening situations. Injuries and deaths are implied. Fish are caught, chopped up and eaten.
Sexual Content: A paper chicken shoots eggs out of it’s behind. A woman tucks lint into her cleavage.
Language: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Other: A celebration is held where families visit the graves of loved ones, talk and pray for them, and then light lamps in their honor. Other discussions occur about what happens to those who die. The spirits of some of the departed are depicted.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
Kubo and the Two Strings Parents' Guide
Kubo plays a Shamisen, a guitar-like instrument. His has magical powers. What do you think the “two strings” on the instrument represent? What is the meaning of the third string? How does playing them together create magic? Where does the real power come from?
Why does the Moon King want to take way Kubo’s eyes? What things is he afraid of the young boy seeing? How might being blind allow him to “see” other things? How does your sight influence the way you understand the world, life and the reason for existence?
The script explores the idea of immortality – which is described as a condition with no death and no sorrow. How does that compare to mortality, where death and sorrow are inevitable? What are the pros and cons of each state? Which would you choose if such an option was given to you? Why?
News About "Kubo and the Two Strings"
From the Studio: Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny. © Focus Features
The most recent home video release of Kubo and the Two Strings movie is November 22, 2016. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: Kubo and the Two Strings
Release Date: 22 November 2016
Kubo and the Two Strings releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy or Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy) with the following special features:
- Feature Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Travis Knight
- Kubo’s Journey
- Corners of the Earth
- The Myth of Kubo