The Secret of Kells is an extremely well animated movie done in probably one of the most obnoxious styles ever, the generic “Flat, even for a cartoon” Cartoon Network style. This was not a turn off for me, as I had previously enjoyed Transformers Animated, which forced me to accept, and even like in certain cases, that style. However, I imagine for many people this will be a fairly big point of contention because unless you’re used to it, it’s pretty annoying to look at.
Now that the Elephant in the Room has been addressed, I can get to the movie itself. Secret of Kells is a modern fairy tale chronicling the creation of the Book of Kells, which is a real book containing the four Gospels of the New Testament, famous for its beautiful Insular Illumination artwork. The plot of the movie follows a generic boy named Brendan whose curiosity about the walls outside the Abbey of Kells keeps getting him in trouble with Abbot Cellach, who it trying to fortify the Abbey to withstand Viking Raiders. In his first sojourn outside the walls he meets a wood sprite named Aisling who quickly befriends him and helps him throughout the movie.
That’s fine, it sounds like a neat kid’s movie. My problem is that, even though the fortifications failed, Abbot Cellach was RIGHT to have everyone focus on turning the Abbey into a fortress instead of focusing on drawings, no matter how beautiful they are. Abbot Cellach is given the stereotypical role of being the “Grownup who just doesn’t get it,” and it is one of the biggest weaknesses in the film because no matter how you slice it, Brendan and his supporters, one of which even witnessed and survived a Viking raid, are WRONG. To add insult to injury, at the end of the movie, Abbot Cellach even ADMITS that he was wrong, despite all real world logic.
Aside from that glaring breach in good storytelling, the film is riddled with other, smaller issues. For example, Aisling is never given a fully developed character, despite being interesting enough to warrant it. The importance of the Book of Kells is never fully explained, as it’s not even referred to as a religious text in the movie, it’s just a picture book. And, finally, despite people being repeatedly stabbed and shot with arrows, no one seems to DIE in this movie, which takes away from the otherwise credible threat of the Vikings.
This movie is fun to watch for the wonderful animation and artwork, but beyond that it is a hollow experience with no depth.