As North American audiences we are preconditioned to take our animated features from the mainstream Hollywood based sources but some beautiful pieces of animation based storytelling are being produced everywhere. "Ernest & Celestine" has been bouncing around for a little while and even earned itself an Oscar nod last year for what is a charming lo-fi effort that will sneak into your heart.
Deep below snowy, cobblestone streets, tucked away in networks of winding subterranean tunnels, lives a civilization of hardworking mice, terrified of the bears who live above ground. Unlike her fellow mice, Celestine (Mackenzie Foy) is an artist and a dreamer and one day when she nearly ends up as breakfast for ursine troubadour Ernest (Forest Whitaker), the two form an unlikely bond. However it isn’t long before their friendship is put on trial by their respective bear-fearing and mice-eating communities.
A simple story about an unlikely friendship, "Ernest & Celestine" has a simply and warm charm as the hand drawn adventures of this mouse and bear tell such a lovely story that not only children can embrace about how are differences are special and never to be feared or misunderstood.
Based on a series of children's books of the same name, the directing team of Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar who have a long history together, add Benjamin Renner to craft this seemingly hand drawn world with an incredible amount of warmth and caring to it all. With a soft almost scribbled on visual tone then entire film felt like we were being told a story through the eyes of the child it's got such a simple logic to it all that it is kind of over joyous to watch as we aren't being talked down or preached to it but we are still getting a story that feels important right down to its core. It's like a child teaching an important life lesson to another child, with it's clear sense of story, logic and right and wrong. It translates across all barriers as this film that was originally in French is still something that can be embraced by everyone.
The characters come alive thanks to young Mackenzie Foy who manages to bring the fire but also the fragility to a part like Celestine while the enigmatic Forest Whitaker brings a real world charm and protective energy to the role as these unlikely friends navigate through the world and ultimately discover what is truly special about the other and themselves. It's not the type of roles that are overly complex, but they have to be bought into with no reservations and they both do it in spades.
Very much a warm and cozy cinematic experience, "Ernest & Celestine" shows us the animation doesn't have to big and bold focusing on the grand spectacle since when it is delivered in the right fashion, calm and quiet can pack just as much of a punch.
4 out of 5 stars.
Special features on the DVD include a feature length animatic of the film, a making of documentary n French with English subtitles, an interview with co-director Benjamin Renner in English with the theatrical trailer.
"Ernest & Celestine" is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, Digital Download and On Demand from all major providers and retailers.