Cinematic Releases: Ernest and Celestine

Ernest and Celestine: simply beautiful.

"nothin' better than gettin' wasted
and playin my in-stru-ments!"

Based on a series of children's books by Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent, Ernest and Celestine was recently released to American audiences with English overdubs by Forest Whitaker, Mackenzie Foy, and William H. Macy among other stars. The artwork and animation make the movie worth seeing by themselves, but there's much more to this seemingly simple tale.
It's a tale of star-crossed best friends, two outcasts who come from classes of society that fear and despise each other. Ernest is from the bears above ground, Celestine from the mice below. Gavrielle Vincent creates a unique symbiosis that explains how the two creatures coexist on the fringes of each others worlds.
The overdub is handled with deft care by Stephanie Aubier, with all of the voice actors turning in carefully crafted performances. Celestine starts the movie speaking meekly, but by the time she meets Ernest, she sounds like Lucy from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Lauren Bacall gives a particularly delightful performance as a crotchety old mouse.
"I smell a ........ RAT!!!"
The adventures of Ernest and Celestine are not bogged down by any filler material like tacked-on action sequences or fourth wall breaking jokes. Every scene has a purpose to serve, and most of them are designed to make us laugh or smile at the beauty and undeniable cuteness of the artwork.
There are light studies of classism and ethnocentrism throughout, but if you spend too much time focusing on them, you might miss out on the fun and excitement going on all the time. The story is extremely touching to the end, but it's the amazing artwork that impressed me the most. There's a departure scene where music and visual art blend together so perfectly, I felt like I was having the best psychedelic trip I'd ever experienced.
It is, at its heart, a kids movie that doesn't explore any theme too deeply.  And that's just fine with me. If you're tired of all the super hyper Imax 3D 10.1 surround sound goodness of the CGI movies, Ernest and Celestine is a perfect change of pace.

-Tom McDaniel