Ernest & Celestine caught my eye about a year ago when I saw a preview for the English version of it. I liked the style of animation (a very watercolor feel to it), and the story seemed interesting. So, I picked it up when it came out on home video.
Célestine is a rebellious, artistic mouse who lives in an orphanage. In order to pay her way in the world, she (along with all the other orphan mice) has to go nightly to the world above and collect teeth from young bears who have lost them. This gives rise to to the tale of the Blue Fairy Mouse who gives money to young bears in exchange for the teeth.
Célestine only wants to draw and paint, however, and this gets her nearly caught by one bear family and almost eaten by a musical bear named Ernest. After convincing Ernest she wouldn’t make a good breakfast, and after she rescues Ernest from the police, they escape together and live in Ernest’s country cottage (more of a dumpy shack, really). This shocks the mouse world, as everyone is taught that bears are mean and will only try to eat you.
The music is very cute and fits the film very well. As the film was originally in French, so is the music, and it sweeps you up into that “grabbing tea with a friend at a café” or “having a picnic in a meadow on a bright, sunny day” romanticized feeling which is so often associated with France. The light, airy, watercolor feel of the film also lends itself to this comparison.
I really like the main message of the film: just because two people are different doesn’t mean they can’t be friends. It is presented in a non-preachy manner, being mostly shown to the audience rather than the characters explaining everything. That the two of them stick by each other, regardless of what their societies say or do, is a good example of standing up for your friends even under great peer pressure. Unfortunately, the other message in the film is that it’s okay to steal things if you need or want them, and that societal laws can be ignored without consequence.
Célestine tells Ernest he can eat everything he wants in the storage room of a candy and sweets shop, so he does. Neither of them seem the least bit concerned regarding the propriety of doing this, and neither has to repay the shop owner. This scenario is repeated when Célestine needs something, so she gets Ernest to rob another store for her. Neither Célestine nor Ernest seems the least bit concerned about how their actions impact the rest of their societies, but instead focus on only what they want as individuals. This is a terrible message to send to kids (or even adults).
Both Célestine and Ernest are generally good people, however, and they don’t seem to want to hurt anyone, so there is a silver lining to the total disregard for law they show otherwise. Kind of like a nicer, friendlier Bonnie and Clyde who only commit two crimes together, if you will.
I enjoyed the film overall, and it would be a fun film to discuss with children (as that seems to be the main audience) to help them understand what Célestine and Ernest did right and what they did wrong. It has its flaws, but is overall a good and enjoyable film. Enjoy the music, too!
Release Date: December 12, 2012 (France)
MPAA Rating: PG
Original Title: Ernest et Célestine
Original Language: French
Violence: 1 (some peril, minor police brutality, fighting)