Finland`s finest export, the carefree and lovable Moomin family, have delighted generations of children with their innocent exploits. Originally created by Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson in 1945, the hippo-like creatures have become a world-wide phenomenon, spawning numerous television series, an ongoing comic strip and even a theme park, encouraging fans from across the globe to visit the otherwise unassuming Finland in the hope of catching sight of one of these mythical beasts.
The latest addition to the Moomin legacy is Xavier Picard`s new film, Moomins on the Riviera. Based on one of Jansson`s original comic strip stories, this is a delightful entry into the Moomin opus.
After a pirate invasion upon Moominvalley, Moominpapa decides to take his clan on a much-needed holiday to the Riviera. As the happy-go-lucky family find themselves hob-nobbing amongst the hoi-polloi, it`s not long before the naïve little creatures succumb to the terrible vices that come with the upper classes. Will the Moomins fall afoul of the temptations of high society, or will they see through the charade and return to their simple lives of laughter and living?
Charmingly animated in traditional 2D and featuring some truly awe-inspiring watercolour backdrops, Moomins on the Riviera is a lovely return to simplicity, a suitable fitting for our protagonists, though one does have to wonder exactly to whom the film is targeted. Sure, Moomin fans around the world will delight in yet another outing of the family, but with an animation style that went out of fashion over a decade ago, it`s a struggle to imagine that youngsters will be enraptured for the film`s entire run. There`s no show-stopping musical numbers here, and the most exciting scene is the very twee pirate invasion in the first five minutes of act one. Indeed, the narrative is rather meandering at times and even I have to admit that I did find myself contemplating the Domino`s menu at various points in the film. This is all just a little too serene for the Frozen generation.
There is also a questionability in the film`s overarching themes; the Moomins struggle with very adult dilemmas such as lust, the dangers of gambling, and Moominpapa`s fondness for expensive whiskey and the subsequent hangovers it brings. The social commentary on the falseness of fame and the negativity of commercialism will go straight over the heads of most youngsters.
That said, the film remains utterly charming, and it`s difficult to get overly hung-up on its flaws. Innocent and adorable, the Moomins are a reassuring nod back to a bygone age of simplicity and wholesomeness.
After all, who needs Elsa and Anna when you can be charmed by Snorkmaiden?
Dir: Xavier Picard
Scr: Leslie Stewart, Annina Enckell, Hanna Hemila, Xavier Picard, Beata Harju
Starring: Russell Tovey, Nathaniel Parker, Tracy Ann Oberman, Stephanie Winiecki
Prd: Hanna Hemila
Music: Panu Aaltio, Jean de Aguiar, Anna-Karin Korhonen, Timo Lassy, Milla Viljamaa
Run time: 80mins
Moomins on the Riviera is out on VOD on September 14th and DVD and Blu-Ray on September 28th.