Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart have reaped Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations for the first two entries in a trilogy: “The Secret of the Kells” (2009) and “Song of the Sea” (2014). The final film, “Wolfwalkers,” has likewise enchanted both critics and scored a jaw-dropping 98% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. It had a limited theatrical release in November and starts streaming on Apple+ TV on December 11.
“Wolfwalkers” won the narrative feature Audience Award at the AFI Film Festival and is nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award for Best International Feature and for three Critics Choice Super Awards including Best Animated Feature. No surprise that it’s also a strong contender for Oscar consideration.
Set in 1650 Ireland, “Wolfwalkers” revolves around 11-year-old Robyn, the daughter of widowed master hunter who has just arrived from England to work for the ruthless Oliver Cromwell-esque Lord Protector to get rid of the wolves in the forest so the town can expand. Though children are not allowed outside the city’s gate, Robyn sneaks out to follow her father so she can try her hand at killing the animals. But when she meets Mebh, a feral child her own age, Robyn learns the magic and secrets of the wolves. Both Mebh and her mother Moll are the last of the wolfwalkers-humans who leave their human form at night to run free as wolves. And when the Lord Protector captures Moll when she is in lupine-form, it’s up to Robyn and Mebh to save her including turning Robyn into a wolfwalker.
“Wolfwalkers” works on many levels: it’s a plea for the preservation of animals-wolves were eradicated from Ireland in the 18th century-and the environment. It’s a poignant father and daughter story. And young girls will adore the friendship and feistiness of Robyn and Mebh.
“Kids need movies like this that respect their intelligence, center strong female characters and question policies of blind obedience, while making an effort to integrate the rich cultural influences of a past that’s rapidly being bulldozed out of memory,” said Variety’s Peter Debruge.
L.A Times’ Kevin Crust praised the visual beauty of the film. “The mother-daughter duo are leaders of the pack, who do not run so much as flow, part of the visual splendor Moore and Stewart unleash in their storytelling,” noted Crust. “The wolves’ home is awash in color-greens, oranges and golds-almost unencumbered by lines in the fluid backdrops, in contrast to the town, drawn with thick lines and grays, demarcating the oppressiveness of the puritanical world.”
Entertainment Weekly’s Christian Holub observed that while the first half of the movie “focuses” on the child characters confronting harsh realities about the adult world, the latter part of the movie sees those kids reintroducing their adult counterparts to the magic of childhood and the state of nature.”
And Boston Herald’s James Verniere offered a unique take on the film: ‘“Wolfwalkers’ is the old drive-in classic “I Was a Teenage Werewolf’ transplanted to the milieu of girl-power movies and Celtic mysticism. If that doesn’t sound like fun to you, I just don’t know what more to say.”
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