One would have to possess the hardest of hearts not to fall in love with “Ernest & Celestine,” a delightful animated adventure (and recent Oscar nominee) with the sweetest odd couple you’re likely to find in a movie.
The movie introduces us to Celestine, a plucky little mouse who lives in an orphanage under the streets of a city. Like most orphan mice, Celestine’s main occupation is to collect teeth from the bear townsfolk above, like the Tooth Fairy — so that the mouse dentists have a supply of replacement teeth for their mousy clients.
The one rule, drilled into Celestine and her friends, is that bears are dangerous and will eat mice given the chance. But Celestine, a true rebel, draws pictures of a world where bears and mice can be friends.
Above ground, we meet Ernest, a musical bear who can’t earn a living — and even gets ticketed by the police for panhandling with his one-man-band routine in the town square.
Ernest is desperate for food, and Celestine is desperate to find teeth. So when the two meet, they strike a pact: Celestine will help Ernest sneak into the town candy store if Ernest will help her get into the denture maker’s salon across the street. (The owner of the candy store is married to the proprietor of the denture place, a profitable arrangement since his tooth-rotting sweets drive up business for her false teeth.)
When the authorities — both the bear police and the mouse police — give chase, Ernest and Celestine find themselves on the lam, relying on each other to avoid capture.
“Ernest & Celestine” is adapted from a series of children’s books by the Belgian author/illustrator Gabrielle Vincent. The film’s directors — Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner — charmingly emulate Vincent’s books by using elegantly simple line drawings to tell the story. The filmmakers know when to employ colorful details (Ernest’s method for disguising a stolen police van is wickedly clever) and when to let the background fade away and focus on the good-hearted characters.
“Ernest & Celestine” was made originally in French, but the English-language dub (which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, launching its Sundance Kids program) delivers the film’s easygoing humor, too. The English-language voice cast is led by Forest Whitaker and Mackenzie Foy (Renesmee from the last “Twilight” movie) in the title roles — supported by Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Lauren Bacall, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Wright and Paul Giamatti.
In any language, “Ernest & Celestine” is cute as a button, and too fun to miss.
‘Ernest & Celestine’
A mouse befriends a bear, breaking taboos in both of their cultures, in this whimsical and beautifully rendered animated tale.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens today.
Rating • PG for some scary moments.
Running time • 80 minutes; dubbed in English.