Animated Movie

Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia

“Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia,” an animated film co-directed by Julien Chheng and Jean-Christophe Roger and the sequel to the Oscar-nominated “Ernest & Celestine” (2012), starts sweet and charming, a slice-of-life story in the friendship between Ernest, a cranky old bear, and Celestine, a positive-thinking innocent mouse. Adapted from the children’s books by Gabrielle Vincent, both films center on this improbable friendship. The charming shenanigans they get up to are embedded with resonant kid-friendly messages: what it’s like to feel like an outsider, how bad it feels when the world judges you, and how important it is to have friends. Anything is bearable (pun intended) if you have a good friend. The sequel takes this a step further.

It opens with Ernest (voiced by Lambert Wilson) sleeping in bed, coming to the end of his hibernation period, and having a dream. The dream is a Utopia at first: Ernest plays his violin, surrounded by a happy crowd. In a flash, the mood changes: the music is now discordant. Ernest spirals down through empty space, all as a massive judge’s gavel bangs its terrifying verdict: “GUILTY.” Ernest wakes, panting with fear about his nightmare. Or was it a flashback? What happened to the music? Why did Ernest’s dream utopia morph into a Kafka-style vision?

Philosophical questions will have to wait. Ernest is hungry. Ernest is a woe-is-me pessimist, and Celestine (Pauline Brunner) is a can-do optimist. The animation is soft and hand-drawn like charming sketches come to fluid life. The colors at first are soft: light greens and soft pinks. Ernest and Celestine live in a recognizable suburban world of small back gardens and little row houses. These colors will change and deepen, and new shadows, darker and more complicated, will be added to the palate.

Disaster strikes early on when Celestine accidentally breaks Ernest’s violin (a “Stradibearius”). Ernest is in despair: The only bear who can fix it is the bear who built it, Octavius, but Octavius lives far away in Gibberitia, Ernest’s home country. What is to be done? bemoans Ernest. Celestine suggests traveling to Gibberitia, a proposal Ernest sternly rejects. At first, it is not clear why. Though tormented by guilt, Celestine sets out on her own, clutching the violin in its case. Ernest, when he discovers her absence, sets off in pursuit. His horror at Celestine’s actions seems a bit out-sized. Why is he so terrified at the thought of her going to Gibberitia? We soon find out why.

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