Once the terms “animated movie” and “animated cartoon” were virtually synonymous. But since computer animation and other advances drained the genre of its cartoonlike qualities, that has changed. One refreshing thing about “Wolfwalkers” is that it feels and looks like a cartoon.
The characters of this fantasy tale, set in 17th-century Ireland, are stylized in a way that sometimes recalls old-school animation outfits like UPA (of the legendary short “Gerald McBoing Boing”) or the British Halas and Batchelor studio (which made a feature of Orwell’s “Animal Farm”). The flattened backgrounds hark back to Disney’s 1959 “Sleeping Beauty.” There’s a slightly rough, hand-drawn quality to the work throughout, and the colors are bold and vibrant.
As much a joy as this movie — directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart and featuring the voice talents of Eve Whittaker, Honor Kneafsey and Sean Bean — is to behold, its scenario is more than a little overbaked and overdrawn.
Robyn, the young daughter of a British soldier overseeing a province and the surrounding forest in 17th-century Ireland, stumbles upon a mother and daughter who are “wolfwalkers,” that is, humans who can take lupine form. Trouble ensues, of course, because the townspeople are fearful of wolves, etcetera.
This is one of those movies where you know just what’s going to happen after the line, “You must do as you’re told, my girl” is uttered. And what happens after that. And so on.
It is kind of funny, if you can roll with it, that the movie eventually endorses the “pagan nonsense” its title characters embody. And that, in a bit of dialogue near the end, offers an almost explicit denunciation of Christianity. Not many animated movies (or movies from Ireland, really) have that particular kind of nerve.
Rated PG for themes, action. Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.