With its pencil sketch and watercolor aesthetic, Ernest & Celestine has a refreshing lightness that’s rare in animation these days. Compared to the increasingly heavy CGI that seems to be piling up around us, this is a delicate delight.
Adapted from the children’s books by Gabrielle Vincent, Ernest & Celestine imagines a world in which bears run the candy shops and court houses up above while mice have their own mirror society in the sewers below. Seeing as the former is predator and the latter is prey, rarely do they mix.
Except for Celestine, an orphaned mouse who draws hopeful little sketches of mice and bears as friends. When she finds herself trapped in a garbage can above ground one day and comes face to face with the famished Ernest, her wishful thinking is put to the test.
Of course a friendship is struck, and if it amusingly arrives in a series of fits and starts, the story itself is awfully heavy-handed about the blindness of irrational fear. A loud climax, in which Ernest and Celestine are put on separate trials for daring to socialize with the other, is particularly preachy and out of sync with the gentility that otherwise defines the film.
Ernest & Celestine is at its best, rather, in its details and interludes, from the way the pastel color scheme blurs the hues together to a lovely sequence in which Celestine’s drawings merge with Ernest’s music (he’s a one-bear band). The latter moment is representative of the movie itself: spontaneous, simple and agreeably old-fashioned.