The animated movie deals with some very hard-hitting emotions such as grief, loss, belongingness and destiny through a touching story that has the potential to move audiences, no matter their age, to tears.
Keegan is a young orphan boy raised in a small Irish town by the coast by his loving grandparents. Irish to its core, Riverdance and the sport of hurling are favourites of the small town and Keegan’s grandfather is adept at them all, and also serves as the town’s lighthouse keeper. The elderly man warns his young grandson of the importance of keeping the lighthouse lit before it gets dark, failing which could spell doom for their town. When Keegan fails to light it one day overcome by a personal tragedy, a dark force arises, threatening to plunge the world as they know it into darkness.
Simply put, Riverdance: The Animated Adventure is everything an animated movie should be and more. Be it the story, the visuals, the characters and the themes, the film nails almost every aspect to give rise to a memorable animated feature that also offers some poignant life lessons.
The film manages to beautifully and sensitively explore deep and hard-hitting emotional themes, an ambitious task given its short runtime. Keegan’s story, as he struggles to come to terms with the loss of his beloved grandfather at such a young age, will resonate with anyone who has experienced the grief of losing a loved one. The film is raw in its portrayal of the anguish that follows, as we see the young boy becoming angry and frustrated with the traditions he shared with his grandfather; getting irate at the thought of never being able to measure up to his grandfather’s legacy and losing interest in the things he used to love.
In his grief, he slips up on an important task that his grandfather had assigned him - keeping the lighthouse lit every night to ward away the evil huntsman. According to the legend, he would return on a dark night to steal the antlers of the magical deer whose powers and rituals people believed keep the rivers of Ireland flowing. And of course, the consequences of Keegan’s slip soon start to show up.
The way Keegan is helped out of his remorse and guilt by supportive friends, old and new, and the lessons that they both accord each other along the way are things that adults and children alike can benefit from. The importance of being one’s authentic self without the fear of not fitting in, embracing one’s destiny no matter how hard it is and being there for your loved ones in times of need are just the many poignant messages the film leaves for viewers in its beautiful story, bound to bring at least a few to the verge of tears.
The characters too are in no way one-dimensional, each having their own faults and shortcomings, but they grow and learn in a realistic and inspiring way.
In addition to the raw emotions, the magic that the movie weaves also shows up in the array of breathtaking visuals that it is rife with, each one more stunning than the last. Each scene is a visual treat, skillfully animated and crafted.
The movie serves as a wonderful tribute to Irish culture as well. It can be credited to introducing viewers, unfamiliar with the richness of the culture, to the beauty of the Riverdance, through some spectacular and fast-paced dance sequences coupled with a score thumping with traditional music. It also offers a peek into age-old traditions such as Saint Patrick's Day and some very fun sequences involving an Irish sport called hurling.
Riverdance: The Animated Adventure is definitely a film that deserves to be on your watchlist. All that one looks for in an animated film, be it in terms of story, characters, visuals, themes and life lessons, the film nails. Despite being a fantasy tale, it feels strangely relatable at times, and it makes sure to send its message across in a sensitive manner without at all being preachy.
Riverdance: The Animated Adventure is available to stream on Netflix.