Sundance 2014 – “Ernest and Celestine”

What can I say about an animated film like Ernest and Celestine? A English version of the original French film from 2012, it is based on a series of children’s books by Gabrielle Vincent and tells the tale of the bear society, where Ernest (voice by Forest Whitaker) is an unemployed, wanna-be actor/musician instead of a judge like his father and grandfather.

Beneath the streets of the bear city live the mice, where Celestine is in a forced apprenticeship t become a dentist, because mice only survive as long as they have their incisors, which allow them to tunnel and create and become the most advanced civilization in the world (in their view). Celestine, for her part, would rather draw and paint all day than fetch bear teeth from above to be used down below as replacement incisiors (after some judicious modification, of course).

In this world, mice and bears do not mix. Bears, always hungry, will gobble down any mouse they see. Bears are the boogy-men of the mice world, and the little mice like Celestine are put to bed each night to stories of the “big, bad bear.”

Celestine does not subscribe to this theory about mice-bear relations, and proves it when she encounters Ernest. Their relationship is the core of the move, obviously, and it is a wonderful one to watch. Nominated for an Academy Award as Best Animated Film, going up against such studio juggernauts as Frozen and Despicable Me 2, it doesn’t seem to have much of a chance.

Which is a shame, really, as the simple nature of the animation brings one back to their childhood, when cartoons were flat, and the story was the thing that drove the wonder, not how realistic the computers could render moving fabric and hair, or simulate light and shadow to a degree that leaves the viewer wondering how much more real it can look without being real.

Give Ernest and Celestine a shot. Grab some popcorn and forget that you’re not under 10-years old.

You might just find out that, in some ways, you still are.

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