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"Kells" A Secret All Should Know

At this past year's Academy Awards, the nominations for Best Animated Feature were of well-known features...except for one. This year's mystery nomination belonged to Tomm Moore's directorial debut The Secret of Kells, which may or may not have been the reason why Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo was snubbed. In any case this Irish-French-Belgian cartoon is a big reason why a keen eye should be kept on Mr. Moore in the not-so-distant future.

The Secret of Kells follows the story of young Brenden (Evan McGuire), a boy who is in line to be the next Abbot of the town of Kells. The current Abbot, Cellach (Brendan Gleeson), is more concerned with building a wall around the town to keep the Vikings from entering and killing the townspeople. One day an illuminator known as Brother Aidan (Mick Lally) comes to the town of Kells with his cat Pangur Bán. His island home of Iona was destroyed by the vikings, but managed to escape with his current work-in-progress: a book that will bring light to even the darkest of depths. To complete the book Brother Aidan enlists Brenden to find more gall nuts to create the ink needed to finish writing the book. On his journey into the unknown forest Brenden comes across a forest fairy named Aisling (Christen Mooney), who decides to help the confused lad with his task. However in-between these trips Abbot Cellach has become more concerned with building the wall than to let Brother Aidan finish the book, and as the Vikings draw closer to the town all hope rests on Brenden's attempt to help Aidan complete the Book of Kells.

What makes this film standout is its animation style. In some moments it looked as if it was stained-glass windows of a church coming to life, and in other times it was a simple as the mindset of a young child. On top of that the film shines with Celtic imagery, from the cover of the sacred book to the knot-shaped snowflakes falling onto the town of Kells. Moore knew going into this that he had to set out and make an animated representation of Celtic honor and pride, and he did just that with The Secret of Kells. Even the characters are drawn in such fine, renaissance-like detail. I was taken aback most by the wolves in forest, who seemed to have jumped out of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (perhaps Moore has a good case on his hands to make a Zelda movie).

(Click here to watch a clip)

When it comes to the actual story it has its ups and downs. It is a bit slow-paced, but thankfully its short length (clocking in at 70 minutes) is good enough to keep even the youngest child watching this entertained. When it gets to the action scenes (especially those involving the Vikings and Brenden obtaining the Eye of Crom) one shouldn't blink to miss even a split second of the animated beauty, and even when there is a calm moment what you will witness will simply take your breath away. Plus the voice cast is stellar, and McGuire's take on Brenden is a reason to watch out (or listen) for this unknown voice actor.

The Secret of Kells is currently in theaters, with a possible DVD release sometime in the summer. However I would highly recommend checking to see if it's playing nearest you, for a lot of the things you'll see in this film are just too good to miss on the big screen. Yes, movie tickets are expensive these days, but The Secret of Kells is worth every penny.

**** ½ (out of five)

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Contributing Editor at ESH since 2008, and host of the No Borders No Race podcast show, which began as a humble college radio program in 2006. My passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture is what drives me to give you my all in every article published and every podcast recorded.