Secret comes out with ‘Kells’

The critically acclaimed The Secret of Kells was nominated for an Academy Award and showed a beautiful side of 2-D animation. | Courtesy of Cartoon Saloon

Moviegoers of all ages will delight in The Secret of Kells masterful story-telling and visual splendor.

The Secret of Kells is by far one of the most engrossing films to come out this year. Twelve-year old Brendan has never left the walls of Kells and is content to help out his uncle’s medieval monastery with errands.

Unfortunately, most of these errands relate more to the wall than religion. Abbot Cellach has become obsessed with fortifying the giant wall in order to protect Kells from the Norsemen.

When Brendan discovers that he must finish the manuscript of Kells, he must stand up to his uncle and venture into the feral nightmare outside the walls. Young adults will relate to Brendan’s struggle. He loves his overprotective uncle, but he knows that he must leave the walls of his small town in order to finish the book of Kells.

The story weaves fantasy elements, such as fairies and Irish pagan lore, into a message about the importance of openness in an increasingly cosmopolitan society. While some fantasy films stumble over their own settings, the conflict between the close-minded abbot and his adventurous nephew takes center stage in Kells.

Viewers will be swept away by this story about a character desperate to imprison his monastery within its own walls and will cheer Brendan on as he escapes to the forest to find ink for the book.

A 75-minute viewing time ensures that the adventure remains fresh and fast-paced with just the right mix of humor and darkness. It would have been nice to see more facets of these intriguing characters and their stories, but that could have detracted from the gravity of the film’s message.

The hand-drawn animation cannot be commended enough. The thick lines and distinct forms of Kell’s striking character designs are reminiscent of the minimalist animator Genndy Tartakovsky’s dramatic and colorful work on Samurai Jack. Take a closer look at the lush watercolor forests and geometric dungeons in the intricate backgrounds to be amazed by the craftsmanship in Kells.

Art lovers will immediately recognize the inspiration taken from medieval scribes in various pieces, such as the monks’ flowing robes, the spiral scales and agile limbs of salmon and deer in the forest, and the bright white stars that illuminate the night sky while Brendan draws. This colorful movie will look absolutely stunning on the big screen, and the many allusions to medieval design as well as the visual motifs will warrant multiple viewings on DVD.

However, there are scenes that may be too dark for younger kids. One of these scenes portrays the pillaging of a village by devil-horned Vikings who speak in nasty growls as they stab a major character. This is a movie that may be best for older children.

Few moviegoers had seen The Secret of Kells when the nominees for Best Animated Picture were announced. Fortunately, movie fans everywhere will be in for an amazing story accompanied by visual delight as screenings of The Secret of Kells emerge in major cities throughout the U.S. this spring.

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