“Ernest & Celestine” (2012) FILM REVIEW
Written by Jambareeqi
Posted 1st March, 2018
“Ernest & Celestine” is set in a world where mice live in an underground society and bears exist on the surface in their own city. Bears and mice have always been divided, basing their fears on tales spread about each other.
This changes, when a bear called Ernest ends up befriending a little mouse named Celestine, after helping each other to improve their lives. Although, their methods of supporting each other are borderline criminal activity, and they grab the attention of the law on both sides. So, the two of them go into hiding, and develop a bond as they close themselves off from the world outside.
Going into this film, I was expecting a simple story of friendship, but it’s actually stranger than that. You see, teeth play a big part in this film; from the mice stealing bear teeth for dental health, to the bears selling their own teeth as business. It’s wonderfully weird seeing how bizarrely attached these characters are to teeth, especially the mice – who value their heavily useful incisors greatly.
This isn’t your typical buddy tale either. While there is chemistry between the bear & mouse as friends, there’s still this sense of taboo lingering around, and Ernest is even very reluctant to become chums. It’s Celestine’s adorable determination to break social norms, that makes Ernest grow more comfortable with their harmony.
The Two of them couldn’t be more different too! Ernest is a selfish and bad tempered bear with foolish habits, while Celestine is remarkably intelligent and mature for her age. It’s the wild contrast between their personalities & physical builds, that makes their bond so touching. The thing is, despite being opposites, they CAN relate to each other, because they’re both creatively talented outcasts; Ernest is a struggling musician, and Celestine is a budding artist.
I do admire how these two help develop each other too. Ernest encourages Celestine to embrace her artist skills, not once seeing her passion as a money making opportunity for himself. While Celestine’s intellectual laid back company, inspires Ernest to become a more mellow & mature bear. These two really do belong together as friends, because they bring out the best in each other.
“Ernest & Celestine” is also incredibly hilarious, with a bloody capital H. This movie managed to get so many belly laughs out of me, thanks to the dry witty dialogue and beautifully timed slapstick. There’s an intellectual attention to detail for character’s emotional responses to things they bump into or confront, that helps the film to successfully score chuckles from the audience.
Even though this film looks like a children’s book’s gorgeous illustrations come to life, it’s surprisingly willing to make it’s delicately drawn characters stretch & bounce in amusingly comedic ways. I think the gags excel because of this, as we get to see pretty drawings being subverted through exaggerated movements & expressions.
I do have two grievances with the film though. Firstly, the movie does kind of gloss over Ernest & Celestine’s crimes a bit, and doesn’t really address the unethical implications of our character’s actions. Yes, the police come after them, but the film frames their arrest as unfair treatment.
Sure, I can understand their motives behind their misdemeanors, considering that they’re going through poverty & social ignorance; but such acts as robbery, property damage, & auto-theft aren’t exactly victimless crimes that can go forgivably unpunished. Yes, these victims are a little shady behind the scenes, and audiences will get a sense of karma from seeing their businesses fall apart, but they’re STILL victims of someone else’s crimes at the end of the day.
It’s wrong for society to deny Ernest & Celestine’s right to be pals, but a lot of their criminal accusations ARE justified. I love these characters as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean that I think that their cute friendship makes them above in the law. I mean, this is a children’s film, shouldn’t we be teaching kids that crime does pay?
Secondly, the film does try too hard to hammer in the juxtapositions between the bears’ & mice’s societies, to the point where it becomes TOO coincidental. We get it, both sides are being just as immature and unreasonable as each other; but constantly showing scenes this similar to each other back to back, results in repetitive storytelling at points.
To Conclude, “Ernest & Celestine” is a beautifully animated and very charming tale of forbidden friendship in a world full of racial intolerance. However, it’s not without it’s faults, and the film does wrap itself up a tad too easily through forced coincidences.
It’s like the filmmakers are putting their well meaning message before realistic storytelling, which does result in a conclusive point that feels a little on the nose. Still, give it a shot, because it’s relaxing atmosphere, cute characters, stunning watercolour art style, and laugh out loud comedy make it all worth it.