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With: (voices) Brendan Gleeson, Evan McGuire, Mick Lally, Christen Mooney, Liam Hourican, Michael McGrath, Paul Tylack, Paul Young
Written by: Fabrice Ziolkowski, based on a story by Tomm Moore
Directed by: Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 76
Date: 01/30/2009

The Secret of Kells (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Golden Page

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In a year jam-packed with new animated classics, this Irish animated feature surprised everyone when it turned up as one of the Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature, especially given that most Americans had ever heard of it. It was hard for me to watch it and not hold a grudge against the movie that shut out Miyazaki's Ponyo, but before long the magic that enchanted the Academy voters enchanted me too.

The Secret of Kells tells the story of a boy, Brendan (voiced by Evan McGuire) who lives under the care of his stern uncle, Abbot Cellach (voiced by Brendan Gleeson) in a remote outpost many centuries ago. Brendan is never allowed to leave the tall, ever-growing walls of his village, as the forest beyond holds terrible dangers. But when Brother Aidan (voiced by Mick Lally) arrives, he turns on Brendan to the power of books, words and illustrations. He sends Brendan out into the forest to get some special berries to make ink, and there he meets a fairy, Aisling (voiced by Christen Mooney), who helps him. Brendan begins taking bigger and bigger risks until the danger finally becomes too great.

The animation is really the high point here, celebrating and luxuriating in shapes and patters, light and shadow, crowded frames and empty frames, and silences and sounds. It has a real penchant for spirals and twisting lines. It's just glorious. Plus, what better way to rejoice in the art of illustration than with a beautiful, hand-drawn animated movie? If the movie had been computer-animated, it wouldn't have worked at all.

It's currently unrated by the MPAA, but it contains some images too scary for small children.

NewVideo released the 2010 DVD and Blu-Ray editions. Extras include a commentary track by the filmmakers, a featurette on recording the actors and several other behind-the-scenes featurettes.

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