Tag Archives: Emmy Clifton

Crazy Political Thriller

Ernest and Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia

by Christie Robb and Emmy Clifton

This follow-up to the Academy-Award nominated 2012 movie Ernest and Celestine and an animated television series, all based on works by writer/illustrator Gabrielle Vincent, has the beloved duo of bear and mouse on a quest.

They have returned to Ernest’s hometown of Gibberitia to have his violin (a stradabearius) repaired by its creator, only to find that his formerly enchanting land filled with bears playing music has become a repressive regime. A new law has banned music with more than one note. Children are forced to take on the careers of their parents regardless of their personal inclination. And a masked hero of the underground resistance periodically pops up to protest with impromptu saxophone solos.

I had the chance to watch the movie with my nine-year-old-daughter. Here’s our take.

Mom Says:

The animation is beautiful, like watching a moving watercolor. The quest to find joy and individual purpose in a society determined to force one into a predetermined course is important. However, the film seems a bit spare. The relationships between the characters could have used some more fleshing out. But, I am coming late to this franchise having missed the previous installments.

The conflict spoke to my daughter who paused the film periodically to voice her suggested solutions to Ernest and Celestine’s problems. Impressive that the production team managed to tackle the ideas of fascism and political overreach in a low-stakes, nonviolent, way that speaks to children. It’s quirky and charming with some great visual gags and a musical theme that will keep you humming long after you’ve walked away from the film.

Kid Says:

I loved everything about the movie, except that, if you look really closely, all the animals have human hands. I did not like that.

The cute art style reminded me of Studio Ghibli movies.

Dogs and Cats Living Together…

The Wolf and the Lion

by Christie Robb and Emmy Clifton

Gilles de Maistre’s Mia and the White Lion is a stunt. According to RivieraBuzz, it was born out of a conversation between the director and two animal wranglers in which the three realized that there had never been a film featuring a wolf and a lion. So they raised some pups and cubs in front of a camera and developed a script.

The story revolves around Alma, who returns to her family’s private island in rural northern Canada following the death of her only living relative, the grandfather who raised her. After the funeral, a plane carrying a circus-bound lion cub crashes on her property. Luckily for the lion, the grandfather had befriended a mother wolf who is happy to nurse the cub as well as her own pup.

Once the mother wolf is captured by a group of scientists looking to start a breeding program geared toward releasing more wolves into the wild, the fate of the young wolf and lion is debated.

Where do they belong?

To provide a well-rounded perspective of this film, I’ve asked my 8-year-old daughter and animal enthusiast, Emmy, to contribute her thoughts.

Mom says…

I respect the guts of lead actor Molly Kunz. There are many scenes in which she had to get up close and personal with the animals, in some instances picking them up or lying down between them. It’s nuts. Somehow she manages work with the animals while radiating confidence and serenity and looking like a cover model for Faerie Magazine.

Props also need to go to animal coordinator Andrew Simpson and his team for keeping everyone safe.

Serge Desrosiers’s cinematography is glorious. He captures the four seasons of the forest in such sweeping, breathtaking shots that they made me long to book a vacation. The set design for Alma’s lakeside home is peak cottagecore—cozy, romantic, and nostalgic.

The movie, however, seems to suffer from a lack of self-reflection. It explicitly ponders the question of where these animals belong and celebrates the animals’ unlikely friendship amid the wacky circumstances in which it developed (as these two species do not naturally coexist). The use of animals as entertainment in the circus is clearly coded as monstrous.

Alma even gives a big speech to this effect at the end to sum up the film.

Although they love each other like brothers, it’s only because as babies they were deprived of their liberty by human beings…They managed to be happy in spite of us.


The filmmakers here deliberately manufactured a situation in which the cubs and pups were raised artificially and made to interact with each other for the entrainment of an audience. How is this functionally different than the circus the movie vilifies?

Pure cognitive dissonance.

The humans really are the weak link in this film. The acting isn’t great and the story is a bit random with logical inconsistencies, stakes that evaporate, and character traits that are dropped suddenly in dialogue because the plot demands it (apparently the lion is afraid of water because…reasons).

Some of this was no doubt caused by script revisions necessitated by what the developing animals were willing to do on camera as well as production delays caused by COVID.

Ultimately, to me, the film was kind of a beautiful mess.

Kid says…

I think it was good, but it was kind of confusing cause some of the timeline of events was unclear.

I liked the fact that it was really realistic and adorable. Watching a wolf and a lion interact was really cute. The wolf reminded me of one of my favorite kinds of dogs—a husky—and the lion reminded me of my cats Tormund and Pumpkin.

Some parts are scary, like when the lion didn’t go into the water and there were guns. But the ending wasn’t devastating.

Mom’s Verdict:

Kid’s Verdict:

A Masterpiece It Is Not

Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa

by Christie Robb and Emmy Clifton

During the recent heatwave as a bid to keep everyone entertained and out of the sun, I asked my upcoming Kindergartner, Emmy, to help me with my latest movie review.

Mom says…

Even a cup of ill-timed afternoon coffee was barely enough to keep me from nodding off during director Sergio Manifo’s animated adventure. The premise was interesting, centered around a teenage Leonardo Da Vinci who brings mechanical contraptions into being in  15th century Italy. But as we passed the 10 minute mark with no inciting incident, I realized we were in trouble.

Eventually we get it. Leo’s friend Lisa’s farm has been vandalized. The crops are destroyed. And without them, Lisa’s dad can’t pay the mortgage and she’ll have to be married off to the anemic son of their nobleman landlord.

The film has a little bit of everything: jokes that don’t land, phoned-in voice acting, questionable gender stereotypes (girls are described as “moody” and cry to get their way), characters who lack development, painful musical numbers that appear out of nowhere, exposition dumps delivered through dialogue, and a romance that makes Anakin and Padme’s in Attack of the Clones look nuanced.

But my favorite thing by far is the closing song. I’ll leave you with some of the lyrics:

When I am here with you

I’m a fish inside a creek

And I don’t know how to speak

Maybe a mobile phone would help

Kid says…

I enjoyed it more than the Little Mermaid, but less than Frozen. Leo was my favorite character. He did the fun stuff. Lisa, the girl, was ok. I’d watch it again. It was kind of scary in parts. Why does everything end up a skeleton in this movie?

Mom’s Verdict:

Emmy’s Verdict: