Ernest & Celestine (GKids, PG)

EarnestandCelestine 75They’re charming, as one would hope, but I have to say I’m impressed with the talent assembled for the English dub.

EarnestandCelestine 500

Going into the fourth quarter of 2013, it seemed like it was a disappointing year for animated feature films. The Pixar release, Monsters University, was one of their weakest efforts, and nothing had cropped up as a surprise. Then the one-two punch of Frozen and The Wind Rises whacked us around November, and it started to look like an okay year after all.

The fact that The Wind Rises was floating around the major fall film festivals (Venice, Toronto, New York) didn’t leave a lot of room for most non-animation-minded film critics to make any other animated feature discoveries, which is a shame, because another really good one was making the rounds around the same time, Ernest & Celestine. Ernest & Celestine in fact had one (free) screening at the St. Louis International Film Festival last year (it had played Toronto in 2012, the year it came out in its native France). Flash forward a couple of months, and the trio of Frozen, The Wind Rises, and dark horse Ernest & Celestine all deservedly scored Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations.

Ernest & Celestine is a quick (79 minutes), funny, thoroughly delightful story of a young female mouse named Celestine, who, unlike all of her teachers and peers, isn’t particularly afraid of bears, under a city of which all of the mice live. More to the point, Celestine is an artist and has a habit of drawing bears and mice together, generally in a friendly fashion, and she gets chastised constantly for this. Meanwhile, Ernest is a grown, male, financially-disadvantaged bear, who’s desperate for anything to eat at all, and of course bears eat mice, which is why the mice are all so afraid of the bears. Ernest finds Celestine sleeping in a trashcan, and before he can eat her Celestine points Ernest in the direction of where he can get his fill of the food he likes the most, that being candy, and most especially marshmallows. Thus a friendship is struck, which gets each into trouble with their respective species, not to mention the fact that Ernest gets in trouble for stealing bunches of candy and Celestine gets in trouble for stealing bunches of teeth (long story), so in addition to being socially ostracized they’re also technically criminals, and so go into hiding together.

Like The Wind Rises, Ernest & Celestine is playing in St. Louis in both its original French-language audio track (with subtitles, of course) as well as in a new dubbed English version. At the time of this writing I have only seen the subtitled version, with Lambert Wilson doing the voice of Ernest and Pauline Brunner doing Celestine. They’re charming, as one would hope, but I have to say I’m impressed with the talent assembled for the English dub—Forest Whitaker does Ernest, Mackenzie Foy does Celestine, and the supporting cast includes favorites such as Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, Nick Offerman, and Megan Mullally. I like this recent trend of releasing foreign-language animated films both with their original audio track and their English dub in the same market, and it makes you feel like less of a weirdo if you go back and see the same film for a second time shortly after your first viewing of it. | Pete Timmermann

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