Rating: 4 out of 5.

A decade after the first Ernest & Celestine wowed critics and captured the hearts of fans everywhere, their return trip has been booked in whimsical sequel, Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia! While the last movie explored Celestine’s tense family connections and burgeoning career as a mouse tooth fairy, Gibberitia turns the mirror to Ernest’s oddball people and customs. Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia remains equally charming to its Oscar-nominated counterpart, and a true 2D-animated treat.

Stone cold broke and with barely anything left in the house to eat, Ernest and Celestine (who now live together!) are just barely scraping by. When Celestine trips over one of Ernest’s slippers on the stairs, Ernest’s precious violin, the Stradibarius, practically breaks in half. Octavius the Luther may be the only one capable of fixing it, but he lives all the way back in Ernest’s hometown of Gibberitia. At first, Ernest is reluctant to return; Celestine leaves a note, and attempts to make the trip herself. Before long, the duo unites after a dangerous snowy tundra nearly cuts things short.

They arrive in Gibberitia to minimal fanfare. Picturesque and stunning, kids play in the street, and there are no mice around whatsoever. Ernest discovers in horror that Octavius has closed up his music shop, calling into question both his whereabouts and whether their journey has been for naught. Ernest begins asking around for Octavius to see if maybe someone will know where he has gone. “No, and I don’t want to know,” one bear shouts back.

When they head to the town square, a studious bear performing on a piano catches their attention—on his piano, there is merely one key! In Gibberitia, multi-note instruments have been completely banned! C is the only acceptable note. Chirping birds are sprayed away with water, and a militant police force is quick to smother out any traces of music when it arises. Ernest pulls out his bandoneon to play, marking him on the bad side of the law. A small masked bear referred to as EFG, wanted for “musical agitation,” may be their key to repairing the Stradibarius and restoring peace and prosperity to Gibberitia. Why has this “Ernestov Law” been passed?

Gibberitia is filled with bizarre and quirky rules. Many words throw “ov” onto the ends, such as “guiltyov” or Ernest’s nickname, “Totov.” Ernest’s parent’s house is literally split in half—couples live together but separately if they get divorced. The biggest conflict of the script lies with another strange law: children in a family that share the gender of their parent must follow in their footsteps as a career. Ernest’s sister, Mila, is destined to become a doctor like her mother. For Ernest, he must take on the moniker of a judge, just as his father and grandfather both were. Ernest is forced to choose between his adoration of music and his father’s steadfast ruling that Ernest must become a judge, or else.

Needless to say, Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia ends up an adorably sweet movie the entire family can enjoy. The watercolor environments continue to be as immersive and rich with detail. The first movie may have been simpler, but both are unique and special in their own ways—Gibberitia has more depth and story, doubling down on the beauty of our differences, as well as the importance of artistic expression in our society. I simply must plead that we not wait another decade in between entries, as the world of Ernest & Celestine explodes with possibilities. Long live free notes!

Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia screened at 2023’s San Francisco International Film Festival.

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