The sweet and unexpected relationship at the heart of Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia holds firm in the face of authoritarian rule. More than a decade ago, the titular bear and mouse friendship won over audiences on its way to an Best Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars. And now they return for a sequel that is just as delightful, surreal, and political as before.
In the opening moments of Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia, country mouse Celestine (Pauline Brunner) and musically-inclined bear Ernest (Lambert Wilson) are enjoying their odd couple domestic bliss. However, when Celestine accidentally destroys his beloved, and very rare, violin. Ernest is heartbroken, but refuses to go home to Gibberitia to have it fixed. This forces Celestine to take the long, mountainous journey on her own, a danger that Ernest obviously can’t sit idly by and let happen.
But it turns out that Gibberitia is no longer a place of joy and music. Well, it is…but only a single note. By national decree, musicians are only allowed to play a single musical note rather than an entire spectrum. It’s like someone watched too much Footloose and decided to make bears miserable, too. Similar to the first movie, Ernest and Celestine find themselves running afoul of the local authorities (these two end up in prison quite a lot), and getting mixed up with an underground rebellion of musicians. Ernest’s past also comes back to haunt him unexpectedly, as he realizes the devastating impact of his decision to leave Gibberitia and not follow in his father’s footsteps.
Utilizing simple but expressive animation that beautifully captures the storybook imagery, the film values friendship and following one’s own path, while reinforcing the need to stand up to authoritarian rule. Whimsical touches are everywhere and used to highlight how silly oppressive laws really are. The Gibberitian music police are especially funny as they go to extreme lengths to fulfill their duties. Songbirds, unsanctioned accordians, and street entertainers beware!
Beause this is ultimately a story meant for children, the messages are designed to be easily understandable rather than nuanced. That’s okay. The real emotional heart are the quiet moments that underscore Ernest and Celestine’s friendship. There’s a moment early on when Ernest rescues Celestine from an icy demise, and riding in his beat-up old truck she curls up in the passenger seat to get rest. It’s a simple gesture, covering her up to keep her warm as she sleeps, but it solidifies the love that Ernest has for Celestine and the trust she has in him. Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia is a crowd-pleasing, heart-warming joy about true platonic love and political defiance. Don’t be surprised if this bear and mouse duo find themselves back in the Oscars hunt.
Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia is in theaters on September 1st.