Phil Villarreal's novel, Zeta Male, is available at Amazon.
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A Japanese fable with more folds revealing inner beauty than an intricate origami creation, "Kubo and the Two Strings" is a visual knockout that's really an action flick designed as a heartwarming family adventure.
Even if the script were terrible, the film would be well worth watching for the astounding visuals on display. That's expected from debuting director Travis Knight, the maestro of computer-enhanced stop-motion who helped create "ParaNorman," "Coraline" and "The Boxtrolls."
It's an added bonus that the story, though as messy and incongruous as Ryan Lochte's Rio robbery fib, delivers emotional impact from beginning to end. When you step back and try to retell the story to a friend, you may end up chuckling too hard to continue.
A boy (Art Parkinson) who had his eye stolen by his Moon King grandfather (Ralph Fiennes) entertains the village by making origami characters come to life by strumming an instrument. Then he slips into an alternate dimension where he befriends an anthropomorphic samurai beetle (Matthew McConaughey) and pocket-sized stone monkey (Charlize Theron) who becomes life size.
With one of Kubo's origami knights in tow, they climb atop giant, moving skeletons to pull swords out of its head to find the one capable of killing his grandpa, who can transform into a fire snake on a bad day, while also dealing with Kubo's murderous, porcelain mask-wearing twin aunts, both voiced by Rooney Mara.
"Kubo's got family issues," my 9-year-old son deadpanned.
Sigh. You're best off just shutting up and describing some of the breathtaking moments -- sweeping battles that have a way of making your stomach feel as though you're riding a roller coaster. Some telegraphed but nevertheless impactful twists help the strange notes ring true, with the otherworldly tale melding with your imagination through the dazzling visuals via childlike dream logic.
Note-perfect voice performances by the capable cast, as well as a haunting score from Dario Marianelli work in concert to breathe life into the ethereal production, and the beauty continues throughout the end credits, which play over a time-lapse video of the skeleton monster's creation while Regina Spektor croons "My Guitar Gently Weeps."
Don't be surprise if Spektor's guitar isn't the only thing tearing up.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4