First of all, why do we expect boys to not like movies that are about girls? Is this an idea that comes from the boys themselves, or does it come from us parents?
I hadn't seen Princess Kaguya yet, hadn't even heard of it until the Academy Award Nominees were announced. But I've loved all of Takahata's other films, so I bought it on sale at Costco, and gave it to Bilbo (8) for a present.
Traditional thinking might say that an eight-year-old boy wouldn't be super excited about receiving a movie about a princess. But I thought might as well give it a shot. Girls have to watch movies with 99% boy characters all the time, why not treat the boys the same way?
Now, just so you have an idea, some of Bilbo's favorite movies are: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Pacific Rim and Big Hero 6. And that blasted Beyblade TV show. So he's about in line with your average young boy.
But, believe it or not, Bilbo was super excited about getting the movie. He didn't know anything about it, but the description on the back sounded good to him.
We couldn't watch it the day he got it, but he kept begging and begging, so we showed him the trailer.
I don't know about you, but that trailer didn't make a lot of sense to me. I still wanted to see the film, but mostly because the style had a cool handmade feel to it, plus I trusted my experience with other Takahata and Ghibli films. But Bilbo was still just as excited. First thing the next morning, he asked if he could have his friends over and watch it.
So at about 10am, we settled down in the home theater with my four kids and Bilbo's two friends, both 8-year-old boys, and watched it. And they were all totally into it. There is so much to enjoy about this film.
The first act is delightful. The bamboo farmer discovers a miniature princess inside a bamboo stalk. He brings her home to his wife, and the girl transforms into a human-sized baby. Each scene after that, she ages and grows before the characters' eyes, leading the village boys to call her "Little Bamboo." All the kids were smiling and laughing the whole time.
We had to pause the movie half way through, I can't remember why, but then a few hours later, Bilbo went and got his friends again, and we finished it. There wasn't any fighting, no real "bad guys," no explosions and lasers. None of the stuff typically associated with young (and old) boys' movies (except there is a scene with aliens, so that's cool). Instead there was playing in nature, birds, boars, resourceful kids, family conflict, a girl choosing and rejecting suitors, and a fair amount of singing. And as soon as it was over, Bilbo asked, "Can we watch it again tomorrow?"
So there's your indisputable proof. This idea that boys only like stories about boys is a bunch of crap. Of course, Studio Ghibli has been proving this for the last 30 years. Maybe the American studios are finally starting to catch on, too.