Ernest & Celestine review: bear and mouse are friends

Ernest and Celestine green light

Might be the most ridiculously cute movie I’ve ever seen, in a way that transforms adorableness into something honest and wise and deeply satisfying.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

This might be the most ridiculously cute movie I’ve ever seen. Not cute in a schmalty, sappy, insipid way, but in a way that transforms adorableness into something honest and wise and deeply satisfying, like how the best children’s picture books do. (Indeed, this is based on the series of books by Gabrielle Vincent.) An ineffable sweetness arises as if by accident from this simple story of a mouse, Celestine (the voice of Pauline Brunner), and a bear, Ernest (the voice of Lambert Wilson: Flawless), who overcome the “natural” animosity between their kind to become the fastest and bestest of friends, and in the most trying of circumstances to boot. There are no humans in this world, just bears living above ground and mice below, each with their own complex cultures: the bears’ world looks somewhat like our own, complete with candy shops and cops who move vagrants along; the mouse realm is like something out of The Borrowers, a tiny and hilariously gorgeous replica of the world above. A quirk of biology puts the mice into something of a symbiotic relationship with the bears; I won’t spoil what this is, because it’s so delightfully weird and wonderful that discovering it is inextricably wrapped up in the joys of the film. The animation — hand-drawn, with a flavor of watercolors about it — is simple and lovely, and crammed with little touches that amp up the squee-able perfection to a level at which it is impossible to watch this without actually moaning aloud with pleasure. Clever, adventurous Celestine in her little cape, carrying her little bookbag and her little sketchbook… it kills me. The story’s little lessons — about the trials and rewards of being a nonconformist, the evils of intolerance, the power of love — go down ever so smoothly and effortlessly amidst such cute overload. I haven’t seen A Town Called Panic, the previous work from filmmakers Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, and Benjamin Renner (the script is by Daniel Pennac), but now I must.

I viewed the subtitled French-language version of ‘Ernest & Celestine.’ The version released in the U.S. is dubbed into English by a voice cast including Forest Whitaker, Mackenzie Foy, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, and Lauren Bacall.

Ernest & Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.]

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