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A Critic And His Four-Year-Old Son Debate 'Kubo and the Two Strings'

By TK & Wee-K | Film | August 22, 2016 |

By TK & Wee-K | Film | August 22, 2016 |

We’ll start with my thoughts: Kubo and the Two Strings is a marvelous, beautiful, and at times even haunting bit of stop-motion animated filmmaking. It’s gorgeously rendered, with bright colors and lush scenery ranging from quiet shadowed forests to swirling snowstorms, from storm-wracked seas to barren, golden deserts. It’s amazing to look at, but more importantly, it’s amazing to experience. It tells the story of a young boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson), whose mother fled with him from her terrifying family in an effort to save him from her family’s dark legacy. Kubo is an extraordinary boy, a clever, imaginative child whose remarkable powers are a perfect reflection of that power. He carries a simple guitar, and when he plays, he controls the many colorful pieces of paper that he carries with him, magically folding them into complex pieces of origami that take on lives of their own, doing his bidding and playing as important a role in his adventures as his living companions do.

Kubo is joined on his adventure to reclaim his father’s armor in an effort to defeat his wicked grandfather by a wise, if rather sardonic monkey named Monkey (Charlize Theron) and a valiant but awkwardly memory-impaired samurai beetle named, of course, Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), both of them constructs built out of the legacy of his parents. It’s a wonderful little trio, and one of the things that makes the film so effective is the intimacy that comes with focusing intently on just three characters. They have a delightful rapport, sharing moments of goofiness equally with moments of seriousness and fear. And while the film is often intense, its scenes of camaraderie and love and a joy to watch and often far superior to the very exciting and innovative action. As is often the case, Kubo and the Two Strings is not without its Very Important Lessons, but those lessons are subtle and well played-out, teaching values of love and honor and loyalty, and ultimately eschewing violence for peaceful outcomes.

I took my four year-old son to see Kubo and the Two Strings this weekend. Our forays into movie theaters are somewhat new — this is the third one he’s seen (the other two being Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets), and so the experience is still exciting and engaging, and of course watching him watch movies on the big screen is a bit of a thrill for me. While it genuinely is a great film, young Wee-K had a slightly different experience. The following is a transcript (with spoilers whited out) of our conversation over cheeseburgers following the movie:

TK: So, what movie did we just see?
WK: Kubo!
TK: Did you like it?
WK: A little bit.
TK: A little bit? Only a little bit?
WK: Well, there were sort of scary parts that I didn’t like.
TK: Which parts did you think were too scary?
WK: Um… the part with the witch, and the part with the battle. And the part where they were trapped. That was too scary.

(ed. note: It’s worth noting for you parents that he spent a good portion of the final battle in my lap with his face pressed against my chest)

TK: What about the parts that weren’t scary? What parts did you like?
WK: When he found the monkey had become alive. And, well I like when he (spoiler)finds his dad’s armor(/spoiler).
TK: OK. Who was your favorite character?
WK: The monkey!
TK: Did you like Kubo too?
WK: Uh huh! He was great. And could do cool things.
TK: Would you see it again?
WK: Um… I would think… no.
TK: No? Why not?
WK: Because it had those scary witches.
TK: What was scary about them?
WK: Their weapons, their voice, they were just scary all over.
TK: What did you think about how Kubo used his guitar to create things?
WK: That was really cool and I loved it. I loved when he made that flock of paper birds! And they chased the real bird! And it was cool and cute.
TK: Did you have fun watching it, even if parts of it were scary?
WK: Yes.
TK: Do you think other people should see it?
WK: Yeah, but just grownups should see it. Or kids should see it but you should tell them to cover their eyes when the witches come. Because it was way too scary for me. Way. Too. Scary. And there was another part I was scared about.
TK: What was that?
WK: The part where (spoiler)his grandfather turns into a fearsome dragon (/spoiler).
TK: Oh, that was kind of scary. But… in the end, (spoiler) his grandfather became kind of a good guy, so that makes it less scary now that you know that, right? (/spoiler)
WK: I guess so.
TK: It’s not one of your favorite movies, I’m guessing.
WK: Nope.
TK: What’s your favorite movie?
WK: Secret Life of Pets.
TK: Why is that your favorite movie?
WK: Because it’s funny and has that tiny girl dog who goes crazy and protects her friends and there are lots of funny animals that can talk and it’s funny.
TK: Did you think Kubo was funny?
WK: No.
TK: No? No funny parts?
WK: Wait! When he made the mosquitoes. Also Dad lookit, I made a “T” with my french fries for my name!
TK: Buddy, there’s no “T” in your name.
WK: I meant my last name, Dad. (exasperated, four year-old sigh)
TK: Ah. Wow, good job!
WK: Thanks. See the “T”?
TK: I see, bug.
TK: Anything else you want to say about the movie?
WK: Um… I liked the end, and I liked when (spoiler) when he found his dad’s armor (spoiler).
TK: I really liked the music, did you like the music?
Yup. It was pretty.
TK: Did you know the song that they played in the end, the one I was singing to you in the car?
WK: What song?
TK: (I sing a few verses of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to him - in the film, it’s a lovely cover by Regina Spektor)
WK: Oh, right.
TK: That song is originally by a band called the Beatles.
WK: Just like Beetle in the movie!
TK: Yes.
WK: … Does he sing that song?
TK: Um, no. Different Beatles.
WK: OK. (skeptically) If you say so.
TK: Anything else you want to say?
WK: Thanks for taking me to the movies again, Dad.
TK: Aw, thanks for coming with me, bug. And thanks for helping me with my assignment.
WK: You’re welcome. It was fun. Can we do this again sometime?
TK: Well, maybe not for my next one, but I’m sure we’ll have another chance.
WK: Good. Can I have more of your french fries?
TK: Sure, pal.

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TK Burton is an Editorial Consultant. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.