I am usually the first person to roll his eyes and scoff at a story in which "faith" plays the part of the central plot device, but as I've learned after watching the Irish animated movie The Secret of Kells, a GOOD movie about faith is really just a good MOVIE. The most beautiful aspect of this film isn't just the animation used and the style it's drawn in, but the fact that it plays out a whole helluva lot more realistic than most every other movie ever made about the idea of faith: there is never any divine intervention, nor does "faith" itself bring about the deliverance of the people from evil. They believe, sure, but what the hell does it get them in the end?
So, The Secret of Kells is an Irish animated film that's up for "Best Animated Film" in the 2010 Academy Awards (up against Coraline, Up, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.... It doesn't have a goddamn prayer). It's drawn in an overly simplistic art style that reminds me of the character designs for the old Clerks cartoon or Kim Possible... Well, actually more like kiddyfied interpretations of people and landscapes from 9th century religious scrolls and tapestries. It's a bit strange at first, but you get used to it quickly enough.
The tone of the movie is something else though. It's this strange amalgam of Robin Hood (the time period and the setting... Kind of), Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and the boring religion classes that I had to take from 1st through 10th grade. Yes, the main plot of the movie is about the genesis and preservation of one of the most famous real-world books ever created, the actual Book of Kells, but don't hold that against it. The Book of Kells is (for those who care, or those who just have to read every word on a page and can't simply skim a paragraph because it drives you into Rain Man-like fits of hysteria, head poundings and screamings and all) an extraordinarily inked and illustrated collection of the New Testament written in the 9th Century Ireland, in or around the Abbey of Kells. It's been praised by scholars and monks for over a millennium for its beautiful and intricate art, and according to this movie it was created with the help of a crystal eye from a giant, demonic snake-god. Just like Jesus prophesied.
From my snarky tone you might get the impression that I thought this flick was a shitty ass-reaming of biblical proportions, but that is not the case. Yes, it's about a boy being taught how to make pretty Bible pages, but it's also about Vikings raping and pillaging the British Isles, cursed creatures living and hiding in the darkness of nature, and faerie girls who can transform themselves into ghost wolves, and creep into monasteries unnoticed in order to steal things from the monks living there. This really is one strange and kooky movie. I hate to sound clichéd, but it is quite unlike anything I've seen before. And yeah, I liked it.
Okay, The Secret of Kells goes a little something like this, ready, here it goes... It's the 800s in Ireland in the walled-in Abbey of Kells, and young 12 year-old orphaned Brendan is doing his best to help his Uncle (the Abbot of Kells, Cellach) and all the refugees from Viking attacked towns who are now living in the fortress-like community in whatever ways he can. Unfortunately Brendan's kind of a dumbass, and he's a huge dreamer who tends to fall away into his own imagination instead of helping with the giant wall's construction, or assisting the monks in their scholarly works. Brendan's uncle though (although portrayed as narrow minded and a bit of a dick) is almost supremely patient with his idiot nephew, and even though Brendan constantly puts other people's lives at risk because of his own stupid shenanigans his uncle keeps granting him reprisals for any sort of punishment. He's apparently never heard of the fantastic saying "Spare the rod, spoil the assdick child."
Soon a new monk, Brother Aidan, comes to the secure abbey, and he's the master illustrator from the Abbey of Iona, off the Scottish mainland. But with him Aidan brings bad news: The Vikings just raped the mung out of his island home, and now they're coming to Kells. Abbot Cellach welcomes Aidan, but believes that his walls will protect the people living within them, and that Aidan is a panty-waisted Margaret.
Soon Brendan starts hanging around Aidan and listening to his stories instead of actually earning his keep and ensuring the safety of the people, and Aidan begins filling his head with the illustrations from the Book of Iona that he brought with him, and of giant snake-gods whose eyes can be used as magnifying glasses that can help the bearer create intricate designs and Celtic squiggles all over parchment like a leprechaun's magically rainbowed stool samples in the forest. Because of this, when Aidan tells Brendan that he needs more special berries to make his ink and get hella high, the kid goes running into the dark woods surrounding the churchy fortress (without giving two shites and a shamrock about the consequences) in order to gather them. And there is where he meets the fair-folk Aisling.
Despite being a cute little Fay, and someone close to Brendan's age (well, at least in appearance), Aisling really isn't in the story for very long. She befriends Brendan and his companion, Aidan's frisky white cat, and plays with them for a bit, but when Brendan gets cocky and goes against her wishes to steal the magical eye from the snake-god Kromme who darkens the forest, she, well, that's all I'll spoil outright for you. I will tell you that this thing is far from your typical Disney fare. Shit hits the animated fan in this movie, and nobody gets out unscathed in the end. There is tons of death, loads of destruction, and there are choices made that alter lives forever. It's actually pretty damn deep for a bright and shiny cartoon. I was made to think about it for a while after originally finishing it up... but then I got back to thinking about more important things, like if I'll ever see that picture of that hot naked redhead bending over backwards while eating a banana and getting splashed with milk again (to my readers, if you've seen a high-quality version of this image please send it to me!).
So, will you like it? I don't know. Do you like animation? Do you like Irish accents? Can you stand movies that have religion as a main theme through them? Do you like cute shape-shifting faeries? Do you like violent, ass-kicking Vikings? If you answered "yes" to any of these, you will enjoy The Secret of Kells. If you answered "no," especially to that Irish accents part, then you're a fekkin' arse-fooker, and you should die.
This movie was fucking great, guys! It made me think of Guinness, and then I got to drinking, and then I got to smashing pint glasses into people's faces (which is known as "glassin'" if you ever wanted to know), and then I got to drinkin some whiskey, and then some more Guinness, and then I bought a ticket to Ireland, and then I passed out in my own vomit and missed my flight, and then I ended up punching a fat, manly bitch in her chins, and then I got crazy after eating some clovers, and then I passed out again and saw God, and then I got up, brushed some dried puke off my clothes and wrote my review.
Arrrrrrr. This here movie made me remember me youth in the Emerald Isle... I remember chasin' after gorgeous Shayla McBobbers and her two healthy, voluptuous sweater pups as we ran around fields of green, and then fell into the fluffy soft shamrock patches as I then raped the shit out of her and then titty-fucked the livin' 'ell out of her again and again. And then I raped her sister. I then gave her mamma the ole "rear admiral," and then I made her Irish Setter fook her pa. Arrrrr...
The ole days may never come back, and I canna never return because of the outstandin' warrant, but I shall never forget those glorious moments.... Did I ever tell you about the time I had young Annie O'Reilly chained up in me cellar for over a week? Arrrrrrrr.... Maybe I'll share that parable for another time.