Ernest & Celestine, Blu-ray (2014)

Voices in English: Forest Whitaker, Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy
Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner
Studio: New Video Group/Canal+/ SKIDS [6/17/14] (Blu-ray & DVD)
Video: 1.85:1 for 19:6 1080p HD color
Audio: French or English DTS-HD MA 5.1 & 2.0
Subtitles: English
Extras: Lengthy “Making Of…” featurette, Feature-length animatic original, Interview with Benjamin Renner
Length: 80 minutes
Rating: *****

This is a truly entrancing story of friendship which will please both children and grownups without embarrassing either one. Reviews have called this timeless tale adorable and it is. I saw it first at a film festival, in French with English subtitles, so being animation I broke my rule of never seeing foreign films with dubbed English tracks. Am glad I did because Forest Whitaker as the bear and Lauren Bacall as the old lady mouse were terrific and the English track worked perfectly, as it does on the Ghibli films.

The film’s script was based on the books of a popular French children’s author and the artwork on the lovely watercolors of another French artist. Although the hand-drawn film doesn’t use watercolors, it does a gorgeous job of giving that appearance. It is about the friendship of a tiny little mouse, Celestine, and a grumpy big bad bear named Ernest, who tries to get money for food by being a one-man band, but without success. Her fellow young mice spend their time trying to fulfill their society’s rules by collecting bear teeth to replace the teeth most mice ruin by eating candy.

But Celestine is an artist and a dreamer and doesn’t fit in.

She almost becomes breakfast for the starving Ernest but the two soon become fast friends and have some colorful adventures together. The worlds of the bears above ground and the mice down in the sewers and underground are contrasting, pointing up the vast difference between Ernest and Celestine’s worlds. The funniest for me was when the mice gendarmes come up from underground via a manhole and confront the bear gendarmes on the street surface, as both are chasing Ernest and Celestine and at first they don’t notice one another. The story ends with simultaneous matching court cases: one on the surface for Celestine, captured by the bears, and one underground for Ernest, captured by the mice. It doesn’t look good for either one, but in the end both trials come together and the two are given the life together which they want to live.

—John Sunier