Moomins’ day in the sun
MOOMINS ON THE RIVIERA Directed by Xavier Picard. Featuring Russell Tovey, Nathaniel Parker, Tracy Ann Oberman, Stephanie Winiecki, Ruth Gibson. G cert, general release, 77 min
The Moomins first appeared in the late 1940s in a series of books and, later, a comic strip by Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson. Though technically they are part of the troll genus, in aspect, Moomins are rather like white, mouthless hippopotamuses. The Moomin family has grown to include the mouse-like Sniff, the nature-loving Snufkin and a terrifying pint-sized minx called Little My.
The Moomins have featured on screens big and small before, most recently in the 2010 Moomins and the Comet Chase, a film characterised by rather unsophisticated 3D and Moomin-fan Björk on the soundtrack.
Moomins on the Riviera, released in Finland last October to mark the 100th anniversary of Jansson’s birth, may be a riposte to such bells and whistles. Handdrawn and traditionally animated, the new film gets back to basics with a storyline taken directly from the comics.
And so, following a friendly scuffle with some pirates, Moomin, his girlfriend Snorkmaiden, Moominpappa and Moominmamma sail towards the titular coastline, where a world of grandeur and phonies await.
At first the family enjoy the luxuries of the Grand Hotel. Snorkmaiden is thrilled to meet socialite Audrey Glamour and is tempted by the advances of beach gigolo Clark Tresco. But even the coquettish, clothesobsessed Snorkmaiden isn’t nearly shallow enough for the Riviera set. Moominpappa and Mominmamma take refuge from the opulence by living under a small boat.
Voiced by such reliables as Russell Tovey ( Being Human) and Tracy Ann Oberman ( Eastenders), Moomins on the Riviera is a gentle affair. As with all Moomin relocations – they did once move into a lighthouse – we’re sure to sail back to the simpler life of Moominvalley by the final credits. So it proves.
There are quibbles: Snorkmaiden is rather brattier than in the books, and Little My is downright scary. And this escapade is perhaps not the Moomins’ finest hour: it has none of the postwar darkness that hangs over The Moomins and the Great Flood or the compelling introspection of Moominland Midwinter.
Still, minor Moomins are better than no Moomins at all. Warmly recommended.
Warmly recommended: Moomins catch some rays