The wonderful thing about animation is that, if you have enough imagination, you can create just about anything. You can tell just about whatever story you want to and in whatever way you want to tell it. It is a storytellers playground and an artists canvas. Yet, so much modern animation has settled for telling the same stories with slightly different characters. This is why movies like ‘Ernest & Celestine’ are such a delight to behold.
Movies like this, with old hand drawn animation, are often like watching a great artist paint on a moving canvas. They are almost impressionistic in their nature and the style allows the animators to think outside the box. It’s not like you can’t do this in the more digital modern animation, but sadly most American animators choose not to. We have to rely on great Japanese animators, like Hayao Miyazaki (The Wind Rises, Spirited Away) or now the French-Belgian filmmakers that put together this film, to challenge our minds with the possibilities animation still holds.
A great example would be a scene, about half way through this film, where Ernest & Celestine juxtapose their talents for our gain. We see a winter landscape being drawn to the sounds and beats of a one man band. The lines soar slowly to the sound of the violin and explode to the sudden bursts of the piano. The abstract quickly becomes the real world and the passing of time has lead us from the winter to the spring. It is a brilliant little scene, that is more creative than most anything else I’ve seen this year.
The same can be said for so much of this movie. The story alone feels fresh and inventive. It begins with Celestine the mouse living in a massive mouse city. Every night she is read the story of the Big Bad Bear and taught to fear the bears that reside in the cities above. However, she is not afraid. She believes that it would be wonderful to have a bear for a friend and scribbles drawings of herself with a giant bear protector. Little could she have possibly known that the bear protector of her dreams would be Ernest.
Ernest is a bit of an outcast. He is poor and hungry because he chooses to live as a musician instead of the judge his parents wanted him to be. Which makes him a perfect match for the young artist Celestine. She is also being pushed towards the direction of a position as a dentist. When all she wants is to draw the beautiful and wondrous things she sees or imagines in the world. They meet one morning after Celestine has failed to steal some teeth and Ernest has failed to get money from playing his music in the public square. Both in a bit of a hard spot, they become partners in crime rather quickly.
Ernest is very hungry and initially wants to eat Celestine. Instead, Celestine shows him a better place to get food. The candy from the shop owner that threw her in the garbage the night before is rip for pillaging. Ernest gets his grub on, but also gets caught and thrown in a cop car. Luckily, Celestine is there to save him. Which is good for her because she also needs a bit of but glaring. She came up short on her last tooth collection and needs Ernest to help her steal a bunch of teeth to return to her home. He does so and she is seen as a hero by the mice in her little mouse city.
Then the plot thickens when they find Ernest in their city and find out Celestine let him in. This makes them both fugitives from their homes and leads them to rely upon each other for survival. It also helps them learn to see past their own differences and realize that it docent matter what you look like. It matters who you are inside. This all leads to a beautiful tale of self discovery, friendship, and learning how to put someone else ahead of oneself.
I absolutely loved every minute of this movie and I think you will to. It’s not the gorgeous animation you are used to, but it’s wiggly lines become endearing and creative in a way we don’t see often enough. I also watched it in French and had no issue with the subtitles taking away from the comedy or visuals. Lucky for you though, the movie is being released here in English with the voices of Forest Whitaker and Mackenzie Coy. So, there really is no excuse not to go out and enjoy this delightful little animated tale.
Review By Nathan Ligon