Ernest & Celestine (Ernest et Célestine)

Putting the UR NISE in ‘ursine’

B efore I begin, are bears and mice natural enemies in France? I thought cats & mice were universal adversaries; not sure I understand how the battle lines between bears and mice are drawn. Is this a French thing?

Mice and bears fear one another in this tale of D+ animation. Mice live in fear of the bear boogeymen; fear dictates that bears constantly wake hungry and then search for a furry snack. Bears fear mice the way elephants do in cartoons; it makes no sense, of course, but this particular anomaly is our plotter’s clay, so-to-speak.

Ernest the bear (voice of Forest Whitaker) does indeed wake famished, and is prepared to eat Li’l Orphan Célestine -wait. I saw the English version … prepared to eat Celestine (Mackenzie Foy), who avoids snack status by helping the bear steal into the candy store. And with that bit of b&e, a friendship is born.

Despite being enemies, mice and bears have developed a symbiotic economic relationship which works something like this: young bears lose their baby teeth. The bears put the tooth under a pillow or on a nearby chair. During the night, the “mouse fairy” swaps the tooth for a quarter or two. Then the collected teeth are taken to mice dentists who use them to replace missing teeth in adult mice, who, in turn, can now function in mouse society, where every other adult mouse apparently has the profession of dentist.

Hoo boy, well, much as I want to attack this one with my economics degree, I gotta go zoology on this junk. Mice are rodents. Rodents don’t lose teeth. Not really, at least. Their teeth are constantly growing; rodents must gnaw things constantly to wear them down to reasonable length. This is why rodents are always chewing things. Now look, I have zero desire to be pedantic here, but this is the basis of the entire plot. Celestine gets caught thieving teeth. That’s how she meets Ernest. Then she gets banished from the combination dean’s office/orthodontics agency until she can collect more teeth, which Ernest agrees to steal for her in exchange for her freeing him from jail. You’ve based an entire plot upon a supposition that makes so little sense, why have mice and bears at all? Why not call them “Yice” and “Zears” and make them an alien culture that look a little like mice and bears? Then you can have them do whatever you want.

The point to all this is if you’re going to make this much up about a species, why bother identifying the species at all?

The Great Brinks Tooth Theft attracts the attention of both bear and mouse police and soon the two heroes are being chased by the entirety of both forces.  The chase includes radio broadcasts and APBs. Yet despite the sheer volume of police involved, the pursuers are left baffled when the bear returns home. I really want to be at that press conference:

“Chief!” “Chief!” “Chief!”
“Hey. One at a time. You in the front row.”
“Did you capture the fugitives Ernest & Célestine. Sorry, er, ‘Celestine?’ “
“No. I’m afraid they got away.”
“Do you have any leads?”
“it’s possible the bear went over the mountain -to see what he could see- we have set up a hotline so justice may be served.”
“Did you find anything at Ernest’s house?”
“Um. Did you —“
(meekly) “Er, no.”
“DAMN RIGHT YOU DON’T. THIS PRESS CONFERENCE IS OVER!” (mumbles under breath) “Find anything at Ernest’s house … ? For the love of Yogi…”

I’m sorry. Who wrote this? I think you have a better future as one of those police psychics.

The endearing part of this movie happens with the mouse and the bear stuck together for winter. We learn about friendship, accepting differences, and Ernest’s incredibly low threshold for anything that might constitute art. This is, quite honestly, a well-meaning picture intended to bring people together. While the rare DVD of Ernest & Celestine will take a backseat to anything Disney you own, I can’t completely pan any film making an honest attempt to bridge gaps. I did not love this film, and I really hope your children take from it ways to deal with classmates ahead of scientific understanding, but there are certainly many worse films out there.

A mouse who enjoys a good fail
Imagine Madeline with a tail
Not exactly her dream
Adding bear to the scheme
A remake of Ernest Goes to Jail?

Rated PG, 80 Minutes
Director: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner
Writer: Daniel Pennac
Genre: Inventing/resolving a natural conflict
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Small children desperately in need of a togetherness message
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Bear supremacists

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