• Studio: Gkids
  • Release Date: Mar 5, 2010

Universal acclaim - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 20
  2. Negative: 0 out of 20
  1. 75
    The movie has a wide appeal, with a gap in the middle. I think it will appeal to children young enough to be untutored in boredom, and to anyone old enough to be drawn in, or to appreciate the artistry.
  2. 88
    Quite unlike anything I've ever seen before.
  3. Regrettably, the film's story is so busy yet flat that the effect isn't magical -- it's more like watching the tale of some very enchanted wallpaper.
  4. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    A visually overwhelming labor of love, a hand-drawn medieval adventure tale that seeks and finds cosmic connections.
  5. This wonderfully strange and exquisite little feature was created, especially for young children, to celebrate the book through another kind of illumination that's been falling into disuse--hand-drawn animation.
  6. Teaches important lessons in the most casual, joyful way. How it manages to do that is probably the biggest secret of all.
  7. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    The Secret of Kells is a magical adventure unlike anything we've seen on screen before.
  8. Gorgeous work, and its imagery and themes dovetail perfectly: a story about creating art, artfully created.
  9. 75
    The Secret of Kells manages to feel simultaneously old-fashioned and mesmerizingly modern,and the slight story at its center has the emotional weight of a classic fable: A boy's wild, fantastical adventure, simply told.
  10. 90
    It is only fitting that a movie concerned with the power and beauty of drawing -- the almost sacred magic of color and line -- should be so gorgeously and intricately drawn.
  11. 90
    A gorgeous transcription of medieval decorative art and its themes into a contemporary animated narrative, one that should enthrall children older than 8 or so, along with the adults lucky enough to watch with them.
  12. 63
    Not nearly as accomplished narratively as it is visually.
  13. The movie isn’t quite suitable for the extremely young, but its apocalyptic tint may be catnip for smart preteens. They’ll breathe in the chilly air of a mysterious forest--the way forests should be.
  14. Don't expect there to be a run on Secret of Kells action figures any time soon.
  15. Kells proves that in the increasingly high-tech world of feature animation, there still can be a place for old-time tradition.
  16. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    There's something kind of captivating about a film that's been painstakingly drawn to glorify the craft of illustration, and that's comfortable using retro techniques. Because after all, what else makes sense for bringing to life the gold and scarlet ornamentation in ancient manuscripts?
  17. 90
    The exquisite art and fairytale ambience will win over animation fans and children alike.
  18. Reviewed by: Amy Biancolli
    In its small, stubborn way, the film is a love letter to traditions that have endured since cave dwellers painted the walls at Lascaux.
  19. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    Gorgeously mounted tale of enlightenment through art and courage.
  20. Reviewed by: Leslie Felperin
    With its jewel-bright colors and intricate use of lines, the result is absolutely luscious to behold.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 42 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 8
  2. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. Apr 10, 2012
    This movie is beautiful but suffers from a singular flaw: it doesn't really go anywhere. The Book of Kells is simply not something that mostThis movie is beautiful but suffers from a singular flaw: it doesn't really go anywhere. The Book of Kells is simply not something that most people in the world know or care about, so the climax of the movie being that the book is DONE is, well, anticlimatic. There is no closure with Ashley, there is no real resolution of mystery, and indeed overall only two characters develop, and then not enough to really feel like adequate payoff. The climax for most audiences comes in halfway, with the theft of the eye.

    It's worth watching once to appreciate the artistry, but it left me unfulfilled.
    Full Review »
  2. Dec 13, 2010
    Having been trained in fine art, having studied art history, and being an enormous fan of animation and cartoons, I must say this is one ofHaving been trained in fine art, having studied art history, and being an enormous fan of animation and cartoons, I must say this is one of the finest creations in the last five years. The story itself is simple and sweet, perhaps nothing to celebrate, and set in a medieval Ireland some 1200 years ago. However, the Tartakovskian stylization of characters, the backgrounds abstracted to a nearly Byzantine flatness, and the romanticization of monastic inspiration pay great homage to the original Book of Kells.

    And if you don't like all the heady intellectual stuff, it's incredible to look at, the soundtrack is totally mesmerizing, and I will sheepishly confess being moved to tears by Aisling's Song to Panger Ban. Great for the family, spooky and lovely, I'd recommend it to any one with an interest in animation, Irish lore, or art history. Check it out! (As of December 2010, its Watch Instant on Netflix!)
    Full Review »
  3. Nov 24, 2014
    THE SECRET OF KELLS is an unforgettable visual experience. The art flat-out blew my mind. It takes inspiration from medieval illuminatedTHE SECRET OF KELLS is an unforgettable visual experience. The art flat-out blew my mind. It takes inspiration from medieval illuminated manuscripts, so the movie plays out like a series of pictures with the characters moving in very straight, two dimensional ways through them. The plays with perspective and movement are endlessly creative. Furthermore, just like the titular Book of Kells, each frame is meticulously detailed and drenched in rich colors - greens, golds and browns for the beautiful forest, and harsh reds and blacks for the scary viking invaders. It's simply GORGEOUS. My description is by no means doing this film justice - you must see it for yourself!

    Unfortunately, the story doesn't match the visuals - it's a collection of great ideas, story arcs, and scenes jumbled together with not enough development. Brendan's coming-of-age arc is thinly developed and never moves beyond the expected. The Christianity vs. Paganism conflict is falls flat because both sides aren't developed beyond Christianity = good, Paganism = evil monster worship (and we never see what makes them so. It's just taken for granted.) The vikings attacking Kells is a scary threat, but the storyline comes off as silly. (The Abbot wants to make the illuminators build the walls to keep the vikings out, and the illuminatiors want to finish the book of Kells. However, when the vikings nonetheless break into Kells, the Abbot realizes that his plan was wrong all along and that the illuminators were right in wanting to work on the book instead (??? This stuck me as bizarre because, well, if they had worked on the illumination instead, the monestary would still have been destroyed!)) Furthermore, these storylines are not tied well together, preventing the movie from gliding along and "casting a spell" on the audience.

    Now, the movie is still very enjoyable. The storylines are still engaging, the characters are charming and likeable (especially Aisling!), and the setting of a 800's monastery is compelling, and unusual for a children's movie. The movie shines in certain scenes - the forest is full of organic, awesome beauty; Brenden's battle with Crom Cruach takes place in a dark, ethereal space with many strange glowing lights; and the scene where Aisling sings to Pangur Ban is filled with so much beauty, mystery, and visual poetry, it haunted me for days afterwards. I get chills every time I think about it!

    So - THE SECRET OF KELLS is a little treat. The story may not be up to close scrutiny, but if you let yourself be swept up in its visuals and setting, you are in for a beautiful experience!
    Full Review »