The first time I had heard of Ernest & Celestine was back when I was preparing to dominate my staff Oscar pool for the third year in a row. Nominated for Best Animated feature, it stood little chance against the juggernaut that is Walt Disney’s Frozen, but still, this beautifully animated story caught my eye. Now I’m glad to say that thanks to the home video release, I’ve watched and highly enjoyed it.
Based on a series of children’s books of the same name from Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent (the nom de plume of Monique Martin), Ernest & Celestine tells the a touching story of a bear and a mouse. Mice live below ground, and bears live above ground, with the two societies rarely interacting and mostly living in fear of each other. Baby mice are told fairy tales of the “big bad bear” who will eat them. Baby bears are told of the fairy mouse who will take theith teeth. The mice do indeed take the bears’ teeth, when the parents first act as tooth fairy, the mice come by and take the tooth again. Bear teeth are the strongest teeth and mouse society has been built by their use of their own teeth, as they gnaw and chew the landscape away to fashion their world. Celestine is one such dentistry mouse who is sent to the surface to steal teeth that are used to replace damaged mouse molars. One evening she is caught by a bear family and trapped until the next morning when Ernest, a kindly, down on his luck bear frees her from her garbage can prison. Celestine then helps Ernest find some food by showing him the basement of a candy store, coincidentally owned by the same bear who trapped her. Celestine and Ernest begin a friendship and help each other until Ernest is found in the mouse city. The two escape the pursuing police from both societies and hide in Ernest’s house in the woods away from the bear town. Eventually each are caught by the opposite police and put on separate trials; trials that will open the eyes of both mouse and bear societies.
As I said, this was a nice, simple story that touched on prejudice, xenophobia and friendship with very light fingers. I was very nice to see an animated film that wasn’t overly CGI (I think I read that it was entirely hand drawn), and I really loved the flowing watercolour look of the film. Originally Ernest & Celestine was voiced in French but had so much success at various film festivals, it was converted into English with stars Forest Whitaker taking over for Lambert Wilson as Ernest; Mackenzie Foy voiceing Celestine for Pauline Brunner. Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and Lauren Bacall rounded out the English voice cast.
Bottom Line: lovely film, and very nice to hear Lauren Bacall one last time, and this picture just kind of summed up the entire film.