Based on the books by Gabrielle Vincent, Ernest & Celestine is a delightful children’s film that reminds us just how brilliant 2D animation can be.
Celestine the mouse lives underground in a mouse metropolis. Anthropomorphised bears run the city above, and Celestine and her brethren regularly sneak into their domain at night to steal as many bear teeth as they can find. Strong and sharp teeth are, you see, of imperative importance to your average mouse – without them, they can’t gnaw and will quickly die. Everyone knows that bears have formidable fangs, so they are the most sought-after of items. As it so happens, bears teach their children about the mouse fairy who replaces their baby teeth with a coin, so this arrangement works out just fine. Until Celestine, that is. Despite having been taught from an early age to fear bears, this little mouse can’t shake the feeling that there are friendly and kind ones out there. When she meets down on his luck Ernest, both the bear and the mouse world will be turned upside down.
The animation is beautiful. Based on the original illustrations, it boasts a simplicity that I associate with picture books of my youth. The colours are subtle and backgrounds messy and vaguely impressionistic. The voice acting is brilliant also, particularly from the titular characters, and there possibly isn’t anything cuter than a mouse’s voice sounding like that of a French child.
Some might complain that there are no sly winks to adults watching this with their kids, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. If it’s a clever story told well, then I don’t necessarily need gauche wink, wink, nudge, nudge references aimed at adult viewers à la the Shrek movies. Having seen Ernest & Celestine in French, however, I can only hope that any future English dub does the original voices justice (as much as I hate dubbing, I can understand why kids wouldn’t be up for reading subtitles).
Ernest & Celestine highlights the significance of traditional 2D animation just like The Illusionist (L’illusionniste) did a couple of years back. Despite the fact that Disney’s most recent hand-drawn outing, Winnie the Pooh, only got a very limited release on Australian cinema screens, I hope we can continue to enjoy this art form for many years to come.Rating: