A Town Called Panic is one of my favourite films of all time and a movie I’ve raved about a ridiculous amount over the years, but oddly I never sought out any other work by directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar afterwards. Indeed I watched Ernest And Célestine without having a clue that it was from the same individuals (with Benjamin Renner joining them for this), but it made perfect sense after finding out as the film is just as adorable and just as inventive and unusual as their earlier work.
It’s a beautifully animated French movie based on a series of books by Gabrielle Vincent, and hand drawn and painted this time around compared to the stop motion antics of Panic, where Ernest (Lambert Wilson in the French version, Forrest Whitaker in the English dub) is a large somewhat grumpy and nearly always hungry bear, and Célestine (Pauline Brunner in the original, Mackenzie Foy in the English version) is an adorably cute mouse who doesn’t fit in with her peers. It’s a quite unique world that these characters live in too, one where bears appear to have a similar society and existence to human beings, and mice do too, except that they live beneath the ground and are obsessed with teeth.
The reason for this is that a mouse is apparently useless without its teeth, and their entire society is based on their ability to create items with their mouths, and so if their teeth fall out they need replacements. Hence mice being seen as tooth fairies in the bear’s world, but Célestine has no interest in dentistry and so is something of an outcast. Ernest could also be described in the same way, as he struggles to find work and earn money as a busker / entertainer, and so the two team up to help each other out and an alluring and captivating friendship begins.
The unusual but very funny universe this is set in is the kind of fare which is incredibly imaginative, yet it never forgets to be always fun too, how everything works is explained perfectly early on and then we’re left just to sit back and enjoy the central duo’s adventures. As well as a script which has some very funny exchanges between the characters there’s some enormously amusing action scenes too, mostly involving their escape from the Bear police, though Ernest’s antics in the rodent world are also highly entertaining.
Célestine and Ernest’s initially fractious relationship warms up beautifully as the film goes on, Célestine’s love of art leads to some very funny creations, and though the film slows down a little when it concentrates on their lives in Ernest’s humble abode this isn’t to the detriment of the film in the slightest, if anything it’s even better here as the their friendship grows stronger and stronger. The only negative thing I could say is that I’m still slightly bitter that we didn’t get a sequel as the film made me fall in love with the characters, and eight years on I still hold out hope that it might happen one day.