Story

Kubo and the Two Strings is a beautiful and melancholy animated adventure set in a mythical Japanese landscape. It tells the story of a young boy’s quest to protect himself from evil ancestral spirits.

Kubo (voice of Art Parkinson) lives with and cares for his ill mother (voice of Charlize Theron). He makes a living by entertaining the local villagers with enchanting and exciting stories.

One evening, Kubo makes the mistake of staying out past sunset. As darkness descends, a dark and evil force awakens. It is the spirits of his mother’s demonic sisters (voice of Rooney Mara), who have come to wreak vengeance and capture Kubo. Forced to run, Kubo is joined by Monkey (voice of Charlize Theron) and Beetle (voice of Matthew McConaughey). Together they must find a magical suit of armour that was worn by Kubo’s late father. Eventually, Kubo comes face to face with his evil grandfather, the ‘Moon King’ (voice of Ralph Fiennes), and must battle to remain mortal and human. 

Themes

Loss of a parent; magic; the power of storytelling; ancestor worship; reincarnation and death

Violence

Kubo and the Two Strings has many scenes of violence and peril. For example:

  • Kubo’s mother is caught in a stormy sea. As her boat capsizes she’s thrown against a rock, where her head is cut open. Her face is scarred and she suffers brain damage as a result.
  • There are several fighting scenes, in which the characters use weapons like swords, chains, blades, and bow and arrows. They also use martial arts-style kicking.
  • During a fight, Monkey is struck with a blade attached to a chain and has a deep and bloody cut in the side of her body. Eventually this causes her to weaken and die.
  • Kubo, Monkey and Beetle enter a dark tomb and must fight a giant skeleton with glowing red eye sockets and a gaping mouth. The skeleton grabs Monkey and Beetle in its hands and is about to eat them.
  • Beetle is stabbed in the back and dies.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Kubo and the Two Strings has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • At night when Kubo’s mother is dreaming, inanimate objects rise up and fly around the room.
  • Kubo’s mother has some kind of brain damage, which makes her behave in a vacant, confused and depressed way. Kubo is her carer.
  • Kubo possesses magical powers that allow him to make a paper origami figure come to life.
  • Kubo is upset that his father died and he never got to know him. He tries to talk to the spirit of his dead father by lighting a lantern, but this doesn’t work.
  • Two demonic spirits appear. They are very scary, witch-like, female characters with vacant and eerie faces. They rise up and float through the air and are extremely menacing and threatening. They try to lure Kubo into coming with them.
  • The demonic spirits send out a kind of dark smoke monster to chase Kubo through the forest and to destroy the village where he lives.
  • Kubo’s village is destroyed, and he believes his mother has been killed.
  • Kubo dives down into a lake where there is a forest of giant eyeballs. The eyeballs seek to hypnotise him and drown him. Beetle rescues him.
  • Kubo discovers that Monkey is actually his mother and Beetle is his father. Then they are both murdered by one of the demonic sisters. They die happy in the knowledge that they have been reunited as a family.
  • The Moon King appears as an old man to Kubo. When Kubo refuses to join him in the realm of the immortal, the Moon King transforms into a fantastic and terrifying dragon/serpent monster that terrorises Kubo and the other villagers. This scene is resolved when Kubo uses magic to turn the Moon King into a mortal old man.
  • Kubo summons the ghosts of his dead mother and father so they can reunite and say goodbye to each other.

From 5-8
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed or scared by the scenes mentioned above.

From 8-13
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed or scared by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Over 13
There is nothing in this movie to concern children in this age group. But if you have children aged over 13 who see this movie, you might want to discuss its themes with them.

Sexual references

Kubo and the Two Strings has some mild sexual references. For example:

  • Kubo’s mother tells the romantic story of how she met and fell in love with Kubo’s father.
  • Monkey and Beetle flirt mildly, and Monkey gives Beetle a massage.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Kubo and the Two Strings shows occasional use of substances. For example, one of the villagers smokes a pipe.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

Kubo and the Two Strings has no product placement of concern, but merchandise associated with the movie is being marketed to children.

Coarse language

Kubo and the Two Strings has some mild coarse language and mild insults.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Kubo and the Two Strings is a moving story that explores deep themes, like death and spirituality, with humour and beauty. Although the movie is quite dark and edgy, there are moments of pure, magical delight. There are also many positive role models in the movie, particularly Monkey, who is a brave, kind and assertive character.

The violence and disturbing scenes and themes in Kubo and the Two Strings make it unsuitable for children under 9 years. We also recommend parental guidance for children aged 9-11 years.

These are the main messages from this movie:

  • Family is important.
  • Everyone has a special story to tell.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include

  • courage, bravery and teamwork
  • respect for elders
  • the power of storytelling.