Ernest & Celestine Voices of Forest Whitaker, Mackenzie Foy, Paul Giamatti. Directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner. Rated PG. Opens Friday.
Adapted from a series of children’s books by Belgium’s Gabrielle Vincent, the endearingly nutty animated fable Ernest & Celestine (nominated for this year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar) imagines a world in which the only two species that exist are bears and mice. Ernest (voiced in the American release by Forest Whitaker) is a bear who feels alienated from his own kind; Celestine (Mackenzie Foy) is a mouse with no interest in being a dentist, which is a problem because all mice are dentists. When the two meet by chance, they speedily become fast friends, to the consternation of their respective fellows, who consider any cross-species relationship to be dangerous.
Directed by A Town Called Panic’s Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar (joined this time by Benjamin Renner), Ernest & Celestine, like its predecessor, runs out of steam eventually, despite a relatively short running time; children’s picture books aren’t known for their complicated stories, and getting to feature length requires some padding. All the same, the movie’s details are so delightfully absurd, and its pastel watercolor images so old-school gorgeous, that it’s easy to be grateful for its company even when it meanders a bit. If nothing else, its existence is a treat for those weary of computer animation’s shiny, plastic look. We know cartoons can be realistic; here’s a reminder that they can also be beautiful.