'The Boy and the Beast' is a complex tale with high emotional stakes.

'The Boy and the Beast' is a complex tale with high emotional stakes.

Funimation

Like the Pevensie children tumbling through a wardrobe to Narnia or Harry Potter tapping a brick on a wall to get to Diagon Alley, the 9-year-old boy in Mamoru Hosoda's exquisitely animated The Boy and the Beast finds a magical pathway between two worlds.

Ren, as he's called in a human world with subway stations and Starbucks signs, follows a narrow alley that takes him to the world of beasts. There he becomes a reluctant apprentice to the fanged, furry and difficult warrior Kumatetsu, who renames the boy Kyuta, the Japanese word for his age.

Must See Movies: Five films worth your time in theaters this week

The two squabble with Kumatetsu yelling that Kyuta needs to find the sword in his soul. Frustrated, Kyuta has a breakthrough when he figures out the only way to learn from Kumatetsu is to mimic his moves. It's funny and touching stuff, but much as the Harry Potter tales deepened as the narrative progressed, Hosoda's complex tale also proves to have high emotional stakes.

Ren fled to the beast world because he hates the human one where his mother died and he cannot find his divorced, absent father. At 17, when he accidentally finds the alley that takes him back into the human world, he's drawn to a library, struggling to decipher words in Moby-Dick. With the help of Kaede, a kind young woman who helps tutor him, he tries to reconcile and deal with wars from the beast world that spill over into the human one.

While young children may be drawn to the Beauty and the Beast spin on a teacher-student relationship and the cute, white mouse that accompanies Ren/Kyuta on his travels, the apt PG-13 rating reflects the frightening anger and anguish manifestated in the boy's physical world.

Questions may linger about what's real and what's projected from Ren's turbulent feelings, but the film creates such vivid worlds on both sides of the alley, you'll root for their coexistence.

The original version, presented with English subtitles, opened in Japan in 2015 and offers deeply satisfying performances. It will alternate in Dallas with an English dubbed version (not reviewed) featuring names familiar to local audiences, including Dallas Theater Center Brierley Resident Acting Company member Alex Organ as Kumatetsu's gentle beast friend and Jessica Cavanagh as Ren's mother.

THE BOY AND THE BEAST

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda. PG-13 (for some violence). 119 minutes. At the Angelika Dallas, AMC Parks at Arlington and Studio Movie Grill on Northwest Highway.

'The Boy and the Beast' tells the story of a boy who finds a magical pathway between two worlds.

'The Boy and the Beast' tells the story of a boy who finds a magical pathway between two worlds.

Funimation
What's Happening on GuideLive