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The Secret of Kells Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 50

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    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.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    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.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Michael Rechtshaffen

    Kells proves that in the increasingly high-tech world of feature animation, there still can be a place for old-time tradition.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    The Secret of Kells is a magical adventure unlike anything we've seen on screen before.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    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.

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  • See all The Secret of Kells reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 9+

Magical animated adventure is intense but beautiful.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Oscar-nominated animated movie is too intense for preschoolers and even young elementary school-aged kids. Steeped in Irish folklore, the movie includes scenes of Barbarian invaders sweeping through towns, terrorizing and killing people with their swords and axes as they go. There are also some frightening images of red-eyed, snarling wolves and an evil pagan serpent god. Some families might also be concerned with the tension between religion (the main characters are all brothers in an abbey) and paganism (depicted by a fairy and a monstrous creature in the woods). Mature kids old enough to handle the cartoon violence will learn about Irish legends, the tradition of illuminated manuscripts, and how every hero needs friends to succeed in his quest.

  • Families can talk about Brendan as a hero. In what way is Brendan's adventure similar to other fictional quests? Who are his helpers, his mentors, his nemeses?
  • Brendan disobeys his uncle, the abbott, to work with Brother Aidan on the book. Is his disobedience warranted? What would've happened if Brendan had listened? When is it OK to disobey?
  • What is the significance of Brendan's return to Kells? Why is the completed book renamed?
  • Kids: Did this movie make you want to learn more about Irish culture or Celtic legends?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: Although Brendan disobeys his uncle, he is ultimately trying to dowhat's best for Kells by preserving the famous illuminated manuscriptthat Aidan needs his help to finish. Brendan believes God has grantedhim a gift to illustrate the manuscript, and he follows this gift. But he alsolearns that what his abbot uncle called "pagan nonsense" wasn'tnonsense at all; there is magic in the woods, in the form of abeautiful fairy girl and an underground monster. Some families might not be comfortable with the depiction of pagan motifs and characters along with strong spiritual/Christian themes.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: Brendan learns to practice his gift, collaborate with Aidan, ask for helpwhen it's needed, and act bravely when he thinks his friend is indanger. Aisling could have been cruel to Brendan when he wandered into the woods, but instead she helps him, befriends him, and teaches him the wonders of the woods. Brother Aidan nurtures Brendan's talent and tells him it's a gift he must use.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: The tone of the animation can turn dark, gloomy, and downright scary in parts, especially during the scenes when the Vikings are shown with their axes drawn or when a pack of red-eyed wolves circle a boy in the woods. The Barbarian invaders mercilessly set fire to a whole town and bring their axes down to kill the fleeing villagers. Needless to say, the Barbarians are frightening and murderous. The sequence with the pagan creature that haunts the woods is also intense. One character is shown near death after he has been speared, and other characters are presumed dead due to a fire.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Not an issue

  • language false0

    Language: Not an issue

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue