Kubo and the Two Strings, the latest film from Laika, the masters of stop motion animation storytelling, premieres in theaters this weekend. Below, we cover the essentials of what parents should know before taking their kids.
1. What’s it about?
The movie focuses on a young boy, Kubo, his relationship with his mother and estranged family, and the redemptive powers of storytelling.
2. Will I enjoy it?
Absolutely, especially if you’re a fan of previous Laika stop-motion films. The movie is full of action, adventure, sorrow, happiness, magic, origami, gods, and monsters, all set in a fantastical ancient Japan. I can’t wait to go again once the movie opens so that I can take my wife and kids to see it.
3. Will my kids enjoy it?
Absolutely, especially if they are fans of previous Laika stop-motion films. See above 🙂 Although there are some complex themes about family, death, and storytelling in the movie, even smaller children will enjoy the movie without having to grasp the full depth of what’s happening. Kids will love Monkey (what kid doesn’t love monkeys?), and Beetle provides the comic relief.
4. Does the movie have any big stars?
Since this is an animated film, none of the stars are visually recognizable, but the voices of Charlize Theron (Monkey), Matthew McConaughey (Beetle), Ralph Fiennes (the Moon King), Rooney Mara (the Sisters), and George Takei (Hosato) are all instantly recognizable. Kubo is voiced by Art Parkinson (best known as Rickon from Game of Thrones), but isn’t recognizable without his native accent. All of the cast brings their characters to life with amazing performances.
5. How’s the music?
As you may imagine from a movie where the main character is carrying around a musical instrument (a magical samisen), the music and soundtrack are an integral part of the film. There is also a great musical surprise during the end credits (see below). The music is so good that I’m planning on picking up the soundtrack ASAP.
6. What’s it rated? Why?
The MPAA gave the movie a PG for “thematic elements, scary images, action and peril.” There is a lot of fighting, most of it with weapons, some with magic, between both the characters of the film, and during some of the origami storytelling scenes. Some of the “bad guys” are also quite scary and ominous and could definitely frighten younger children. There is never any gore but there are a couple of deaths in the movie.
7. So just how long is it?
The movie is only 90 minutes long and if I had any complaint at all about the movie it would be that there is one scene near the end where there is a very important plot reveal about Kubo’s father that felt a little rushed to me. I actually would have liked it to be a little longer.
8. When’s a good time to sneak out to the restroom?
At only 90 minutes, I highly recommend not sneaking out at all, but I’m probably not the best person to answer this. I am notorious for holding it no matter how much it hurts because I don’t want to miss anything. Also, the entire movie is beautiful and engaging, so you really don’t want to miss anything if you can help it. If you absolutely cannot wait, I’d say the snow scene with Kubo and Monkey that’s mid-way through the movie is your best to not miss out on any of the action, though it is important for their relationship building.
9. Is the movie worth seeing in 3D?
I can’t think of a movie in recent history that I would answer yes to, but I saw Kubo in 3D, and it’s a definite yes for me. Because it’s stop-motion and the characters and scenery are painstakingly created in real life, I think the 3D really adds to the life-like quality of the characters. That being said, I haven’t seen it in 2D, and Kubo will be enjoyable without 3D, but I feel it really does add something to the movie.
10. Is there anything during or after the credits?
The credits are an absolute joy to watch as there is a bunch of really cool animation during the credits. But more importantly, the music during the credits is the perfect ending to the film—Travis Knight (director of Kubo and founder of Laika) managed to get the rights to do a version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Regina Spektor. It is such a beautiful rendition of the song and perfectly encapsulates and puts the final touch on the movie. You absolutely must stay and watch through the credits.
Kubo already has a spot as one of my favorite movies of all-time. Not only have I been a long time fan of stop-motion animation (and Laika), but I grew up with a single mother and a love of storytelling so the parallels between my own life and Kubo’s instantly drew me in. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the movie is gorgeous with a perfect soundtrack. You can also read more about Kubo and the press day I attended for more details.
Note: I saw an advanced press screening of the movie, but all thoughts and opinions above are my own.