Moomins’ day in the sun

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

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

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