Thursday, April 24, 2014

Partners in crime

Ernest & Celestine (Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner, 2012), a French-Belgian animated co-production, opening Friday at the Main Art, is the most innocent of children’s films, though I don’t think of the Main Art as a children’s theatre. But, hey, for parents who regularly frequent the theatre – and the wider community – this is a charming movie to bring your young’uns too. It’s like Paddington Bear – well, kind of - only en français though with English subtitles. The English dubbed version featuring the voices of Forest Whitaker, Lauren Bacall, William H. Macy and Paul Giamatti, would have been interesting but the screener I saw was in the original French. Think of this as Bonnie and Clyde for the young set. Ernest is a big bear. Celestine is a little mouse. They live in polar opposite worlds, the first aboveground, the second below. Both have human traits. Both run shops, drive vehicles, and not least of all have their own police departments. And not surprisingly each fears and despises the other. Until, that is, Celestine throws a wrench into the works. She draws pictures of a smiling bear and how she’d like to befriend one, to the utter outrage of her orphanage. Out gathering teeth one day for her dental apprenticeship she comes across Ernest who is ravenously hungry. He wants to eat her but she outwits him – “bears only eat mice in story books,” she says. She leads him to a candy store where he breaks in and chomps down all the lollipops and marshmallows he can eat. Meanwhile Celestine is more interested in drawing than scavenging and is admonished by her instructor. So she breaks into a tooth implant shop and steals hundreds of incisors. Ernest & Celestine are now outlaws. It turns out the bear is also artistically inclined (he’s a musician) and the two settle into domestic bliss. But the police won’t quit their pursuit. The movie has won the Magritte or Belgium’s top award for a francophone film. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Film this year (Frozen won). For a film screened at a Landmark cinema I was expecting something more edgy – something with a cultural message, perhaps? But that’s not really the case. This is as sweet and innocent as they come – even a throwback to something that would come out of the 1950s - complete with a cute and soothing musical score. For anyone who says there aren’t heartwarming movies out there anymore, just check out Ernest & Celestine.

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