Given the choice, I prefer to watch a foreign film in its native tongue rather than a version dubbed in English. Others disagree, and they may have a point in the case of “Ernest & Celestine,” an Oscar-nominated animated film about a bear and a mouse who become best pals. Small children who do not yet read, or read slowly, might have a hard time keeping up.
Luckily, the video version of “Ernest & Celestine” includes both the original French voices as well as some Americanized ones. So you can choose to hear Lambert Wilson and Pauline Brunner, respectively, as the voices of Ernest the bear and Celestine the mouse in French, or opt for Forest Whitaker and Mackenzie Foy in English.
The American soundtrack also features the voices of Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Nick Offerman, Jeffrey Wright and Megan Mullally.
The film takes place in parallel worlds: above street level, bears drive cars, shop at stores, go to school, and so on. Down in the sewers, the lives of the mice proceed much the same. The two groups fear and despise each other.
Their only real source of interaction is in the market for bear teeth: the bears buy new teeth to replace their rotted ones (the bears in this world love candy), and the mice file down the baby teeth of bears to substitute for their sharp incisors.
But a chance encounter throws Ernest and Celestine into a pot of trouble, and on the run from the police in both their communities. While hiding out at Ernest’s bucolic cottage on the edge of town, they find themselves becoming fast friends.
There’s an inclusive, gentle message here about showing tolerance to those who are different from us. It may go over the heads of wee ones, but this is the rare animated film adults while enjoy as much as their kids.
“Ernest & Celestine” is sweet, lyrical and lovely – in French or English.
Bonus features are the same for DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film. In addition to the dual language tracks, there is also a making-of featurettes, a feature-length animatic detailing the animation process, plus an interview with co-director Benjamin Renner.