ERNEST & CELESTINE
The story of an unlikely friendship between a bear, Ernest, and a young mouse named Celestine.
Review by Louise Keller:
The beauty of this adaptation of Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent's characters is its sheer simplicity and sincerity. Oozing with heart, beyond its hand-drawn smudged watercolour animation, is a stunning depiction of two parallel worlds in which the unlikely friends of bear and mouse live. When the little mouse Celestine tells Ernest the bear: 'I'm all alone in the world; nobody loves me,' there is something poignant about the scenario. Revoiced by an English-language cast and directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner, the film is a real charmer with its intricate, detailed realities and heart-warming central relationship.
First, we enter the regimented underground world of Celestine, the miniature mouse who dreams of becoming an artist. The orphanage in which she lives with the other mice trembles under the rule of the Miss Hannigan of the rodent world - the Grey One - whose ominously protruding two teeth and unpleasant demeanour define the ambience. Scary bedtime stories are about big bad bears, but Celestine's view is somewhat different, as her drawing of a bear and mouse as friends shows.
As the industrious reality of the mice is depicted in exquisite fashion, we learn that it is their teeth that are the foundation of their society, allowing them to gnaw through hard stone to create their cities. Hence the role of every mouse to collect teeth from baby bears, who in turn, are waiting for the 'mouse fairy' to replace the fallen tooth with a shiny coin.
When we meet Ernest the bear, he is wearing striped pyjamas and trying to stay warm in his snow-surrounded house. Life as a busker (fiddle, drums, cymbal and tambourine) does not pay and he is hungry. He is big sook: clumsy and lovable.
When he and Celestine meet, they each need something from the other. Celestine's logic, when Ernest rescues her, intending to gobble her up, is to convince him she can lead him to a much more attractive food supply - the candy store.
I chuckled at the set up in which one bear couple owns thriving businesses on opposite sides of the street - Papa Bear owns the candy shop, while Mama Bear runs the dental clinic to resolve the dental decay caused by the candy.
The mainstay of the film involves the evolving relationship between Ernest and Celestine, who become fugitives - and friends. Visually, there are plenty of highlights, like the fantasy scene in which gingerbread men, lollypops, candy canes and cupcakes walk into the bear's wide-open mouth. This English version has a voice cast including Forest Whitaker, Mackenzie Foy and Lauren Bacall as the Grey One. It's a tale as sweet as the candy store that figures so prominently.
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ERNEST & CELESTINE (PG)
VOICES: Forest Whitaker, Lambert Wilson, Pauline Brunner, Mackenzie Foy, Lauren Bacall, Anne-Marie Loop, Paul Giamatti, Patrice Melennec, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Wright
PRODUCER: Didier Brunner, Henri Magalon, Stephane Roelants, Michael Sinterniklass, Vincent Tavier
DIRECTOR: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner
SCRIPT: Daniel Pennac (book by Gabrielle Vincent)
MUSIC: Vincent Courtois
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Zaza, Zyk
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 3, 2014