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Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings also known as “Kubo e a Espada Mágica,” “Kubo e as Duas Cordas,” “Kubo e la spada magica,” “Kubo et l'épée magique,” “Kubo ja samuraiseikkailu,” “Kubo och de två strängarna,” “Kubo y la búsqueda del Samurai,” “Kubo y la búsqueda del samurai,” “Kubo y las dos cuerdas mágicas,” “Kubo és a varázshúrok”

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril.

Reviewed by: Gabriel Mohler
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive—due to worldview
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family—with supervision
Genre:
Stop-Motion Animation Adventure Family
Length:
1 hr. 42 min.
Year of Release:
2016
USA Release:
August 19, 2016 (wide—3,260 theaters)
DVD: November 22, 2016
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Focus Features

fantasy magic

Eastern mysticism

fantasy monsters

praying to dead ancestors instead of God

difficulty of growing up without a father

physical abuse by a family member / stolen eye

Buddhism

spirits in the Bible

Why I stopped following Buddha and started following Jesus Christ? Answer

Ten Questions I’d Ask If I Could Interview Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) Today

Can mysticism lead to God? Answer

personal story: Jesus Christ 2, Buddha 0


armor in the Bible

Kid Explorers™
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Charlize TheronMonkey (voice)
Art Parkinson … Kubo (voice)
Ralph FiennesMoon King (voice)
Rooney MaraThe Sisters (voice)
Matthew McConaugheyBeetle (voice)
George Takei … Hosato (voice)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa … Hashi (voice)
Brenda Vaccaro … Kameyo (voice)
more »
Director: Travis Knight
Producer: Laika Entertainment—“Coraline,” “Corpse Bride,” “The Boxtrolls,” “ParaNorman
Distributor: Focus Features

anti-Christian, anti-Biblical message”

an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from animation studio LAIKA

In terms of quality, “Kubo and the Two Strings” is one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen. But, in terms of morality, sadly, it’s one of the worst. This doesn’t say too much, of course, because animated films in general don’t tend to be that offensive (no, I haven’t seen “Sausage Party,” but “Kubo…” and most other animated films are for children). And that’s not to say there aren’t positive messages. Indeed, there are plenty of good moral teachings from this film, about family, boldness, and sticking to what is right. There’s no profanity or sex, either.

The problem with this film is the perspective from which the positive messages are taught. While no specific religion or god is ever named, many of the major plot points rely on mysticism, séances, and reincarnation. There are also magic powers, which, although fantastical in nature, would kind of have to come from the pagan concepts. There is no idol worship, but all of the spiritual elements—ghosts, reincarnation, the unbiblical afterlife, etc.—are clearly not just fantasy; they all fit together into the pagan religions of the film’s setting.

The film starts with Kubo, a little boy living with his widowed mother, being pursued by the ghosts of his two aunts, who want to take him away to their spirit realm. To defeat them, he must embark on a journey to find the pieces to a magic suit of armor. The first half of the film didn’t seem too bad to me, but then it took a much stronger pagan turn, introducing iconic spiritual elements of Buddhism and Hinduism.

The film assumes this worldview, and never tries to actually preach it. The creators of the film may not believe it or expect viewers to accept it; it’s most likely just there for a good, entertaining story. It is still dangerous, however, especially for young children, because becoming fascinated with the story necessitates becoming fascinated with the pagan worldview.

On another note of caution, I should also point out that there is quite a bit of peril, action, and scary imagery, including skeletons and monsters. This film reminds me quite a bit of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. It’s not as violent, but it’s still pretty intense for young viewers.

How sad that I can’t recommend this film! It is stunning, and I mean STUNNING! The atmosphere and visuals are gorgeous, and all of the (good) characters stole my heart. It is also a well-crafted tribute to the culture it is set in. But I advise families to avoid this film, and parents, if you do let your kids watch it, PLEASE pause it when necessary to talk about the spiritual problems (you’ll have to do that a lot, which is why I recommend just skipping it).

As an alternative, I recommend another film of this year that has similar themes NOT including the paganism. It is “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Be sure to read our review of that, however, because there is some caution for young children about the frightening images in that, as well.

Violence: Moderate to Heavy / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Negative
Negative—The movie though visually entertaining was an attack on the faith Jesus told us to have. “Moon god” represented mature Christians faithful believers who have set their affections above and not beneath. The enemy will do whatever he can with his cohorts to divert our hearts from wanting to be where he is. They use family as a means to seed in children to revile and hate the older generation of believers, even if that means killing them. Not to discourage loving BOTH of your parents, but the first relationship was Adam’s relationship with God. They show prayer to dead people, instead of God, and a host of other things that do not line up…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Jacob King II, age 45 (USA)
Negative—I just saw this movie with my daughter, and it was highly problematic. As usual, the effects and storytelling are used to make the antibiblical friendly and accessible (and to cause empathy) in the viewers. I had great doubts about seeing this movie when I saw the previews, so I regret that I did not stick to my feelings. First, there is the issue with communicating with the dead. Being that the religion of the characters is traditional, esoteric eastern Asian (or maybe Buddhist… I am not well versed in Buddhism), you have the main action begin when Kubo desires to speak with his dead father (like everyone else at some religious holiday they are celebrating with floating lights).

Previous to that, Kubo seems basically like a warlock or witch or something with the paper show he creates. From there, you get a little Harry Potter and Voldemort’s horrocrux when the mom somehow cast her soul into a monkey talisman that later comes to life upon her death… But, like Voldemort, she isn’t dead, because… she cast her soul or a fragment of it or something into a monkey. Yeesh! That was absolutely even more shocking on top of the communicating with the dead.

Although usually I would be super happy to see a film for young kids that stresses the importance of listening to parents and the value of elders in society, this time the parents” value comes from their anti-Biblical pagan beliefs and the vaguely demonic. I am not happy with it at all. It ends with Kubo reunited with his parents at the river… or rather, Kubo finally being able to speak with his dead parents at the river, where people send out the lights to return the ancestors to the realm of the dead (a la “Thor,” the second movie, kind of).

Don’t see this movie if you believe in God. The premise seems to introduce dark and evil themes in a benign—seeming way to people and promote a kind of ancestor worship or “alternative “belief system. You cannot help but feel some empathy and get caught in the story, but the story is all wrong. It is all wrong. I deeply regret participating in contributing money to this film’s endeavor, and I hope that this review helps other people to do what I knew in my heart I should have done when I first saw the preview: don’t go. So far, the hour has mostly been spent dissecting the movie and discussing why it was not a good film to see, even though the film looked beautiful, and the animation great. My only hope is that we all (I had invited other people, as well) forget it, sooner than later.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Aletha, age 39 (USA)
Negative—A full out attack on God (Christianity). We are at war, it seems.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—R.T., age 39 (USA)
Movie Critics

…a dangerous intro to Buddhism and atheist thinking…
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide

…A thoroughly engaging animated adventure. …beautifully rendered 3D stop-motion film…
—Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times

…With its staggering visuals and genuine heart, Laika chief Travis Knight's fantastical samurai adventure puts the emotion in stop-motion…
—Peter Debruge, Variety

…Half dream, half nightmare and completely original, Kubo and the Two Strings will amaze and delight… [4]
—Chris Knight, National Post [Canada]

…gorgeous animation of the highest order… and thanks to a nuanced story, it is one of the more rewarding films of the summer, nay the year. …[4/5]
—Josh Kupecki, The Austin Chronicle

…a visual feast… as beautiful and ethereal as anything from Pixar… Despite the emotional punch, the script by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler has some flaws. …[3/4]
—Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee

“Kubo and the Two Strings” is a gorgeous stop-motion adventure… visually stunning—even if the story it tells is shaky at times. …
—Lenika Cruz, The Atlantic

“Kubo and the Two Strings” is visually stunning, but its flaws can’t be ignored… The characters feel underdeveloped, to the point where it’s sometimes difficult to remain invested in their triumphs and failures. …
—Ellen Brait, The Globe and Mail

…incredibly impressive to look at. …All of Kubo's eye-, ear- and heart-pleasing stuff masks some spiritual philosophies that parents may not be expecting. …[2½/5]
—Bob Hoose, Plugged In

Comments from non-viewers
Negative—Thank you for the warnings in reviews above. We decided not to go after seeing confirmation of questionable material.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Tori, age 40+ (USA)

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