Tuesday Tournament – Folklore-ish kids movies

When I watch a movie with my kid, I try to find ones with themes and lessons and cultural exploration. I don’t have a lot of time to watch movies, so I want something that teaches a lesson while entertaining us. Life lessons are the best, especially when it’s about how to accept who you are while growing as a person, or changing society rather than letting society change you. I love all the films in this week’s competition, even more so as they draw from cultures I’m not that familiar with.

Which movie is the best?

(Feel free to define best any way you want.)

We have four contenders this week:

  • Song of the Sea
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • The Book of Life
  • Moana

Song of the Sea:

When an Irish father’s grief over his wife’s death begins to impact his parenting, his mother takes her two grandchildren to live with her in the city. The brother blames the move on his little sister, but when she turns out to be the only selkie that can save Ireland’s fairies from a witch, it’s up to him to help her get back to the sea. Along the way, he learns the importance of family.

Why I like this one: First off, there aren’t nearly enough stories about selkies, IMO. And second, the whole story can be viewed as either a literal battle between selkies and fey and witches, or it can be seen as a creative little boy’s imagination in overdrive as he too processes his unresolved grief over his mother’s death. Also, I’m a huge fan of Lisa Hannigan and love this song.

Kubo and the Two Strings:

A young boy in feudal Japan lives with his mother, earning a living telling songs with his lute and origami. But when he stays out too late, his sorcerer aunts find him and destroy his village. His mother sends him on a quest to find his father’s armor and stop her sisters and father, accompanied by a gruff talking monkey and a fun-loving samurai beetle. Along the way, he learns the importance of family and sacrifice.

Why I like this one: Monkey pushes the boy to reach his goals, managing to be supportive without sugarcoating anything. And Matthew McConaughey is a lot of fun as the beetle. The ending is good too, as the whole village comes together to help the boy and promote love over hate, with a nonviolent solution to their problem with the sorcerer. Also a great soundtrack.

The Book of Life:

Set in colonial Mexico, this is the story of a love triangle – a young woman must choose between a heroic bullfighter and a humble musician whose family push him into bullfighting as well. When he thinks the woman is dead from a snakebite, the musician follows her into death so they can be reunited. Turns out it’s all a ploy by La Muerte to win a bet against his rival. The musician must find a way to conquer his fears and meet his family’s expectations while staying true to himself. Along the way, he learns the importance of family.

Why I like this one: The animation is amazing. And the lesson is powerful – you don’t need to be the biggest and the strongest and the best to win, you just need to be the best YOU.


A young woman in Polynesia thinks she has the key to ending the blight that threatens her people’s island, but no one believes her. So she embarks on a solo journey to save the people she’ll someday leave. Despite hardships and the “help” of a trickster god, she makes her way across the sea to restore balance to nature. Along the way, she finds a way to unite her people’s past, present, and future so that they can prosper.

Why I like this one: Although she’s a hereditary ruler, Moana isn’t a princess. She’s helped by her grandmother, who tells her it’s okay to give up if it becomes too hard – and although this may seem discouraging, it actually shows that Moana is human, and that as a human it’s okay to fail, regroup, and try again. (And yes, I know there’s a ton of cultural appropriation issues and inaccuracies with this film, but it still teaches a good lesson.)

So, readers, which movie is the best?

In addition to voting in the poll, if you leave a comment below explaining your choice, I’ll randomly pick one reader to receive a free copy of my upcoming ebook, “Spice Pirates.”

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