Ernest and Celestine packs a potent message about loyalty and friendship into its soft-pastel look. The Oscar-nominated and Cesar-winning film from the creative team behind Triplets of Belleville and The Secret of Kells is overall a gentle (though entertaining and at times quite boisterous) tale that is certainly geared for children but can be appreciated for its artistic value and thoughtful story by adults.
Based on the 1981-2000 book series by the late Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent (the pen name for Monique Martin), the movie brings together mouse-dentist-in-training Celestine with outsider bear Ernest. In a world where bears and mice act very much like humans, adopting not only their social structures but fear and contempt for the “other,” that is definitely a forbidden friendship. Their newly forged bond is tried figuratively and literally when each is captured by the other’s authorities and put on trial. Will their ties truly bind?
The animation has the watercolor essence of Vincent’s illustrations; its softness (aided by Vincent Courtois‘ sweet musical score) makes the story easy to swallow, particularly when scuffles with the police and other highly-charged moments occur. It’s nevertheless silly that the MPAA has slapped a PG rating on the film for its “scary moments”; to put it in perspective remember when that organization put a rating on a 1970s re-issue of the Disney classic Bambi it got a G despite having to deal at one point with the death of Bambi’s mother. There have been many others but Ernest and Celestine is a good example of just how out-of-touch the ratings folks have become with modern social mores.
I enjoyed the French language version with English subtitles (a taste of that is provided below in the first of two videos embedded with this article). At the Belcourt Theatre where it’s now playing in Nashville the English dubbed version will be shown featuring the voices of such fine actors as Forest Whitaker (Ernest), Mackenzie Foy (Celestine), Lauren Bacall (The Gray One), Paul Giamatti (Rat Judge), William H. Macy (Head Dentist), Megan Mullally (Lucienne), Nick Offerman (George) and Jeffrey Wright (Bear Judge). I hope you’ll check out this lovely film before it leaves Nashville; the child in all of us needs the fun, whimsy, love and hope Ernest and Celestine so beautifully contains.
Ernest and Celestine (www.ernestandcelestine.com) opens today (May 9) in Nashville exclusively at the Belcourt Theatre (2102 Belcourt Ave.) and runs through Wednesday (May 14); click here for showtimes and to purchase tickets. Rated PG for some scary moments, 80 minutes. Directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner; written by Daniel Pennac, based on the books by Gabrielle Vincent; English screenplay adaptation by Stephanie Sheh; director of animation, Patrick Imbert; edited by Fabienne Alvarez-Giro; music by Vincent Courtois; lyrics by Thomas Fersen.
*Images and videos courtesy GKIDS Films.