It’s time for an animated film that went under the radar. It does have a pretty big actress in the form of Lauren Bacall, but it’s not a film that I had heard of prior to now. It goes for a retro feel and the film is pretty fun. The cover technically explains most of the plot, but don’t get the wrong idea. This is a feel good film, not a heist blockbuster!
The plot involves a bear and a mouse. They live in different worlds (figuratively speaking) and their two species cannot coexist in harmony. The mice live underground and the bears live above it. Humans have been
appropriately exterminated (Probably by Aliens) and Bears essentially rule the Earth. Celestine wants to be a great artist, but all mice have to become dentists. It’s just the way that things have to be. They tell her not to return to the underground world until she collects 50 teeth. Meanwhile, Ernest is pretty poor and he gets his musical instruments stolen after trying to earn money in town square. He’s at the end of his ripe and that’s when the two characters meet up. Ernest will help Celestine get the teeth and she’ll help him get some food. Of course, in the wise words of the shop owner of the Zelda CD-I games…”This is illegal you know”. Both of them are now being hunted by both civilizations….and this could get ugly.
The film suffers from a pretty slow start. Particularly Ernest’s subplot as we see him scrambling for money. It’s just about impossible to sympathize with him because he wants to eat the birds and he refuses to share his food with them. That’s not the hero that I was really expecting at that point and I was waiting for him to go back to sleep so that we could go to Celestine’s plot. Hers wasn’t great either, but I did think that the head honcho of the dentist committee knew his stuff. This guy wasn’t playing around and he really knew how to use the teeth to save someone’s speaking career. We have the class bully, the “nice” guy who is too afraid to leave the bully and we even have a sleeping room that is
ripped off borrowed from Madeline.
That’s all well and good, but I can’t say that I was really invested into the film until the main characters met up. Then, it was time to escape the authorities and fight back. Celestine’s a lot more aggressive than Ernest when she speaks so she usually clobbers him verbally so that she can get her way. Ernest tries to stick up for himself a few times, but he’s simply no match for her. Everyone knows that Ernest is a nice guy at heart.
I’ve already talked a lot about Ernest and you can tell that he’s not really my kind of character. He gets a lot better by the end of course, but he messes up during his “hardcore” scenes and he should have put up more of a fight against the mice. He seems to be a bit of a pacifist, but the survival instinct should have kicked in and taken him to the next level. I also like to think that the other bears may have helped him out if Ernest had just asked them, but maybe these guys are meaner than they look.
Celestine’s plight isn’t quite as serious as Ernest, but it’s a lot more dangerous. Collecting teeth isn’t for the faint of heart since the bears will eat/crush you if they spot the mouse. I don’t blame Celestine for wanting to be an artist instead since that seems like a pretty raw deal. She’s a more likable character than Ernest and she also acts a lot tougher. She does have a few moments where she breaks down, but they both have some pretty dicey nightmares so that evens things up a bit.
I do have to say that the animation is downright terrible for a 2012 film. Of course, they likely had a very limited budget and were going for a nostalgic feel, but I’ve seen 60’s/70’s/80’s shows (Gundam, Transformers) that had better animation. I think the film could have tried a little harder to be more interesting visually. This kind of animation would have definitely had some trouble trying to get a fight scene going. I’d actually take CG-I or Flash over this animation and that’s a little dicey. There isn’t much of a soundtrack here so we’ll just skip that section altogether.
The film’s fairly short, but it’s pretty fun as stated above. There’s not a whole lot of depth to it and it may be hard to really like any of the characters, but none of them are downright awful. We have some cringe worthy figures like the kid who lost his tooth and Ernest, but the others are pretty good. It’s hard not to grin at the Candy and Dentist combo since that racket can really earn the two bears a lot of money. It’s a smart plan and at least they’re open about how they want to make money out of everyone’s misfortune. This is definitely not the happy little town that you may have been expecting since everyone has a hidden agenda.
Ernest & Celestine is fun for what it is, but it leaves less of an impact than other kid friendly films/shows. The colors aren’t as vibrant or engaging as what you may have seen from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Arthur has the more interesting characters. Carmen Sandiego had the more intense chase scenes and Strawberry Shortcake never forgets the morals. So, it’s not that Ernest & Celestine really did anything wrong, but it doesn’t really stand out. It’s like the classic Naruto film 1 argument. It’s a solid film, but why watch it when you can watch (almost) any of the other films for a richer experience. I think that’s the case with this film. It’s pretty fun, but we’ve seen most of the messages and character development in other media and they’ve done it more successfully. (Auto points for no sing alongs though)
Overall, Ernest & Celestine is a happy team up film that shows how the powers of friendship can always result in magical occurrences. The cops never stood a chance against these guys. One dicey thing for fans of the throwback genre may be that there isn’t really a big moral at the end. Ernest isn’t really sad about breaking the law and he would probably do it again if he was given the chance. The judge for the bears was pretty intense and nothing can faze him, but it could just be that he’s a little slow on the uptake. I would recommend this to people that are looking for a fun animated film to watch. It’s decent and there aren’t really any big mistakes that the film made. Of course, I would sooner recommend one of the animated features that I mentioned earlier since they do a better job at conquering this genre.