The Secret of Kells Sans Secrets

Watched the start of The Secret of Kells last night with Rilla and Liz, but ended up turning it off. The strange part of this was not immediately understanding why we didn’t particularly want to watch it anymore. It’s pretty stunning in terms of its visual and animations, for instance – no obvious complaints there. The voice acting, while perhaps a little over-earnest, is perfectly alright.

On some reflection, I think the problem was two-fold. The kind of unfair issue is that the visuals might have been a little too amazing for their own good – for me at least. Any given frame, as in the screenshot here, looks a bit too much like a stand-alone illustration. It’s as if the images aren’t allowed to breathe, perhaps, or be alive, or genuinely move. There’s a stiffness created when everything is so pristine, is what I think I’m saying.

The other aspect was, as I alluded to a moment ago, the earnestness of the movie. At least so far as I could detect, it was a completely straight-faced tale of a boy about to embark on an amazing adventure and so on. As an adult, these days I expect any cartoon or other children’s media to contain at least a second layer of meaning or reference which entertains me, even as the more straightforward elements entertain a younger person. I suppose that something like The Simpsons or Toy Story is emblematic of this. There’s a sophistication in those movies that allows us to watch it without feeling kind of braindead. And, in a happy coincidence, I feel like this added layer even allows me to enjoy the more standard narrative elements a lot more (see: Toy Story).

In that, case, maybe I could describe the problem with The Secret of Kells as being graphically too sophisticated, and conceptually not sophisticated enough.

7 April 2010
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