Celestine is an orphaned mouse, living underground with all the other mice and working for the dentistry as a tooth collector, taking teeth from bears so they can be used by mice for replacements. However she feels quite alone underground as she only has interests in drawing. Earnest is a bear, living above ground just outside of town as a failing entertainer. While he loves his music, he doesn’t get much respect or money from the other bears he interacts with, getting into trouble. One day, after both of them fail miserably at their jobs, their paths meet and they agree to help each other. However, their help only leads them into more trouble, and they end up hiding together. Through their talents, they develop a strong friendship, a friendship which neither society approves, and believe they should hate each other. What will become of their friendship, as well as their future, is up to their strength and how these two societies will judge each other.
Following the illustrations from the books based on the film, the film’s art style is very reminiscent of water colours. The colours used give it a more down to earth feel but there is still a good level of variety. The flow of the animation goes from being smooth and gentle to quick and snappy depending on the scenario, and it really works well as pacing really adds to the mood of the scenes. There are some really funny scenes between Earnest, Celestine and the other characters, as well as some really sombre moments. However, the best aspect of the visuals has to be the character and scene designs. The characters are rounded enough to look appealing, but have enough detail to show characters expressions, even from a distance, although there is a slight issue when it comes to size, since the film struggles to keep the size of mice against bears consistent. There’s no mistake that the animators wanted the characters appealing to kids, with the little mice like Celestine looking adorable and the bear characters looking fuzzy and huggable.
The voice acting is rather good, while I’m not very knowledgeable on French actors, the most notable ones for an international audience is Lambert Wilson, who was one of the antagonists (The Merovingian) in Matrix Reloaded. While his most recognised role wouldn’t show him as such, he does play a variety of good and bad guy roles, as well as being involved in musical and stage performances, so a role like Earnest is very fitting. He does a good job of a kind hearted and sometimes grumpy bear. The only other notable role is Didier Brunner’s daughter, Pauline. While she has no prior acting credit, and I’m usually doubtful of casting relatives in your films, she does a good job of someone who’s meant to be naturally quiet and timid in nature, but able to be outspoken depending on the situation, even delivering some really funny lines at points.
As of writing, there is an English version in the works, and fortunately there is a good and interesting cast, with Forest Whittaker and Mackenzie Foy taking the leads, as well as Paul Giamatti and Nick Offerman. So hopefully in the future we’ll get a good English version? Let’s hope so.
While the soundtrack is quite simple in concept, the individual scores are quiet memorable. A few of the piano based tracks are quite memorable in their simple design. There are also some calm and quiet moments, which are very noteworthy indeed. Aside from the few melodic pieces and more sombre pieces, there isn’t much music that would really stand out; it’s just very nice music that suits the film.
The story found in the film isn’t new; it’s the unlikely allies’ story: Where two people of different groups that despise each other become friends (and sometimes lovers) and end up facing enemies on both sides who despise of their relationship, viewing it as wrong. I’ve seen this story before in stories and films I’ve seen and reviewed previously like Fox and the Hound and Arashi no Yoru ni, however it’s still worth to point out that retelling a story is not a bad thing unless you bring something new or different. In the case of Earnest & Celestine, what they have that’s different that the form of hatred is not really extreme. What I mean is that unlike the two examples I mentioned earlier, in the world of Earnest & Celestine, they may fear and hate each other but would kill each other unjustly. In the film, the police and court are after the two because they committed crimes, although their friendship doesn’t make their situation better when they do get caught. While near the end they are faced in a trial where they are judged against their crimes, the prejudice is brought up and the whole scene goes to climax in possibly the film’s only symbolic moment. That court scene is the only moment where the message of prejudice gets challenged, and yet the subtlety of it really brings a strong message of how blind prejudice can make people blind, and if they continue to judge the people they have been brought up to hate, they won’t notice that their world will collapse around them. It’s that kind of deep understanding of the story that kept me engaged to the end.
Earnest & Celestine is a film with a child friendly nature that isn’t afraid to show how mature children can me. It looks innocent, it has family friendly humour and a heart-warming feel, but it does show something even adults can be engaged in. It conveys a more down to earth message of prejudice in a tale that has been repeated several times over, and I’d be happy to see this film several times over.