Monday, June 30, 2014

Let's Review Something: Ernest & Celestine

When I was a young boy, about seven years old, I remember standing at the top of the stairs in our old home in New England, staring down at this giant rat the size of a medium sized stuffed animal.  My face was probably laced with sheer terror, as the thing turned at hissed and bore those sharp front teeth, and my dad raced to grab a broom or something and then it was gone, almost as quickly as it came.  It squeezed it’s giant body into a hole the size of a quarter in the wall and disappeared.

I never saw it again, but I’ll never forget it either.

But, mice are cute; right?

There is something jovially precious about ‘Ernest & Celestine’, a cute little film about two lonely critters uniting as one.  I have to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the film had its fair share of supporters who raved it quite a bit and were overjoyed when it received that Oscar nomination, and I have to admit that it was visually appealing to me in a way I hadn’t expected either.

Sometimes you just need that nostalgic beauty of hand drawn images.

‘Ernest & Celestine’ tells the story of an orphan named Celestine, a cute little mouse who has been brainwashed to loathe bears.  She is an inquisitive little thing though, and she bucks common trend of bear hating to actually fantasize about befriending them.  At night, little Celestine is sent off along with her orphan friends to steal bear teeth because their teeth are falling out and they need their teeth to survive (and nothing is quite as strong as a bear tooth).  One night, after a VERY close call, Celestine finds herself in the clutches of a lonely (and hungry) bear named Ernest.  She helps Ernest find food in exchange for her freedom, and after helping him out of a jam, he offers to help her collect an exorbitant amount of teeth, making her a local hero…for a second or two.  Yes, their jovial time is cut short when their worlds collide in a chase for justice as the two are accused of thievery.

But they just want to be friends!

The imagery and the score here are astonishingly good; just so beautiful to look at.  The opening scene, in the orphanage, is one of my favorite scenes in film all year.  It is just so gloriously cinematic, despite the intimate nature of the film.  But, despite those moments, there are many moments when the film feels sadly un-cinematic.  In fact, some of the segments felt like an episode of ‘Little Bear’, and it took me out of the trance I was in.

I really liked this, even though it didn’t always feel consistent in scope and tone.  It is a charming little film that really strikes a chord, and the musical segments (especially towards the end) are just stunning to listen to, and really compliment the film’s message.

I'd give this a B, for now, but the more I reflect the more I like this one.  The languid development of character is really stunning, but I can't help but feel that is was missing something...something.


  1. I have a copy of this and The Great Beauty on hand, and I'm hoping to finally watch them this week. (I'll make a minor edit or two to my CinSpec pics if need be.)

    Intrigued that this currently gets a Fisti nod for its score, and thrilled that The Selfish Giant is hanging in there in Adapted Screenplay!

    1. I've seen all the films I'm seeing from 2013 (at least for the Fisti Awards) ain't losing it's Screenplay nomination either!

      And this score is just wonderful.

  2. This sounds pretty sweet. I might have to check this out!

    My family is from Boston, and I remember this time my aunt told me to go outside and pick up a dead mouse on her deck. She was scary, so of course I did. Anyway...I get out there, and this dead 'mouse' is the size of a small dog and it scared the f--king shit out of me.

    (Sorry, pointless stories are kind of my thing)

    1. I feel you! Those rats are insanely huge and scary as crap!

  3. This was a good animated film. I liked the way it looked and the relationship between Celeste and Ernestine. I do have to agree with you, that it's missing something and lacks a cinematic aspect to it.

    1. Yup. It was good, charming, but ultimately...lacking in a way.