Delightfully charming, this Oscar podium-placer is a worthwhile watch for audiences of all ages.
Once again, the animators of France and Belgium prove that the hard work of animating the old way can pay off in a beautiful work of art. Les Armateurs and La Parti Productions have put together a watercolor dream of childhood fairytale. The fanciful imagery perfectly pairs with the simple story and tinker-toy piano score, bottling up childhood innocence in a vision straight off the canvas of a Parisian street artist.
Ernest & Celestine is born of a children’s book series – the Paddington Bear or Winnie the Pooh of some French-speaking countries. It is centered around societal misfits Celestine, a young orphaned mouse whose vision of the world belies a worldly wisdom beyond her handful of years, and Ernest, a world-weary bear who prefers solitude and slumber to community and hard work. These two “fish-out-of-watercolor” find themselves more and more at odds with their societies and when their paths cross, a strong friendship is born around dodging police, making art, and their combined love of life.
How much more charming could a film be? This movie’s optimism bleeds out through the art style and wraps the viewer in a warm blanket of comfort and hope. The painted imagery is magical – both rough and elegant at the same time, capturing a pair of dark societies in light of the love underlying. Furthermore, Forest Whitaker and Mackenzie Foy are perfectly cast as the big lovable bear and smart, adorable mouse, blending their talents flawlessly into the characters. The film employs an excellent use of parallel storytelling, swapping back and forth between the two heroes as their journey plays out. Only the rapid pacing and seemingly slapdash race to bring the plot together at the end detract from this otherwise charming picture.
Ernest & Celestine fits right in amongst the company of The Triplets of Belleville or My Neighbor Totoro, landing the same Oscar nomination as its Les Armateurs sister-film, in fact. Though not possessing the sociological depth of competitor The Wind Rises, the film transcends the culture that produced it with broad appeal to audiences the world over. The painstaking effort to produce this hand-painted animated flick would be worth picking up for a delectable banquet for the eyes. Thankfully, Ernest & Celestine provides both a beautiful spectacle of color and an enchanting tale young and old can, and should, thoroughly enjoy.