MOOMINS ON THE RIVIERA
Moomins on the Riviera sees Moomin (Gummerus), his parents Moominpappa (Långbacka) and Moominmma (Sid) and a group of his friends take a trip to discover the delights of the French Riviera. However they soon find out that the reality is not as it looks in the glossy magazines they read at home, leading them to question whether the lifestyle of the rich and famous is all it’s cracked up to be.
The Moomins - the half hippopotamus/half troll-like creatures which inhabit an imaginary valley somewhere in, or near, Finland - have always been divisive where public opinion is concerned: you either love them or hate them, and there has never been much room for middle-ground. Anyone with their feet too firmly planted in reality will most likely not get them. To fully appreciate these imaginary creatures, and their wide circle of equally bizarre friends, you have to have a taste for the strange, as happy living in the realms of fantasy and make-believe as you are in the everyday world.
Saying that, even those who love them will often admit to finding them unsettling too - there’s a side to them that is just a little bit ‘creepy’. Which is what has made Moomintroll, his parents Moominpappa and Moominmamma, his girlfriend Snorkmaiden and their friends so appealing, since they first appeared in author Tove Jansson’s bestselling books in 1945. The best characters from children’s literature and those which stand the test of time often have an ‘edginess’ to them or the adventures in which they find themselves. The inhabitants of Moominvalley, where Jansson’s characters lived, were no exception, frequently at their strongest when facing dangers and everyday predicaments within the boundaries of their own wild and haunting homeland.
Which is why, and where, this new animated big screen adventure slips up. The strongest aspects of Moomins on the Riviera take place at the beginning and end of the film, bookending the slower and less imaginary middle segment which chronicles the family’s trip to the South of France. There is plenty of fun throughout the film; the humour, though clearly aimed at younger audiences, has a sophisticated enough undercurrent to appeal to older sensibilities as well; the characterisation of the snooty and arrogant individuals who people the Cote d’Azur is marvelously realised and, one feels, probably disturbingly true to real-life. However, the opening scenes, which - apart from introducing the impish character of Little My, who featured frequently in the Moomin adventures - seem to have little or nothing to do with the central story, are also the most intriguing and memorable, particularly for older viewers who may want to watch the film for purely nostalgic reasons.
Though the beautiful and sparsely-rendered animation by production companies Handle Productions, Pictak and Moomin Characters lends itself perfectly to the darker aspects of the story, overall Moomins on the Riviera is too true to life to capture the otherworldliness which made Jansson’s creations so magical.
INFO: MOOMINS ON THE RIVIERA / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: XAVIER PICARD, HANNA HEMILA / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: KRISTOFER GUMMERUS, MATS LANGBACKA, MARIA SID, ALMA POYSTI / RELEASE DATE: MAY 22ND
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10