'Moomins on the Riviera': Film Review

Courtesy of Handle ProductionsOy, Pictak Cie © Moomin Characters
Will leave younger kids charmed rather than exhausted.

This animated film based on the classic characters created by Finnish cartoonist Tove Jansson is on the shortlist for the Oscar.

A familiarity with the source material will definitely add to your enjoyment of Xavier Picard and Hanna Hemilla's animated film based on the durable comic strips and books by Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson. Depicting the adventures of its titular family of hippo-like characters during their visit to the Cote d'Azur, Moomins on the Riviera is a pleasantly gentle throwback to the days before frenetic 3D/CGI animation took hold. The pic is currently on the shortlist for the best animated feature Oscar.  

Resembling a children's book with its pastel-heavy, hand-drawn images, the film features the lovable members of the clan — including Moominpappa (Nathaniel Parker), Moominmamma (Tracy-Ann Oberman) and son Moomin (Russell Tovey) — on an accidental vacation on the French Riviera (pirates are involved — don't ask). They're accompanied by Moomin's girlfriend Snorkmaiden (Stephanie Winiecki) and Little My (Ruth Gibson), the precocious human little girl who lives with them.   

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Culture clash inevitably develops, as the naïve Moomins — who are checked in as "De Moomins" and who think that because the hotel considers them "guests" they won't have to pay — find themselves caught up in the glitzy glamour of their new environs. Although Moominmamma resists the temptations of shopping and gambling by heading to the beach, Snorkmaiden buys herself a new bikini and becomes enthralled by the elegant Audrey Glamour (Shelley Blond), whose resemblance to Audrey Hepburn is strictly intentional.

Casually paced and meandering, Moomins on the Riviera is unlikely to appeal to older kids. But very young children will probably find the characters enchanting, and adults will appreciate the subtle doses of sly, satirical humor. There's a reason that the Moomins have enjoyed international popularity for some 70 years, and this film, based on a comic strip series originally published in 1954, wisely does little to change or update its modest charms.

Production: Handle Productions, Pictak
Voice cast: Russell Tovey, Nathaniel Parker, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Stephanie Winiecki, Ruth Gibson, Philippe Smolikowski, Dave Browne, Shelley Blond
Directors/producers: Xavier Picard, Hanna Hemila
Screenwriters: Leslie Stewart, Annina Enckell, Hanna Hemila, Xavier Picard, Beata Harju
Editor: Thomas Belair
Composers: Panu Aaltio, Jean de Aguiar, Anna-Karin Korhonen, Timo Lassy, Milla Viljamaa

Not rated, 78 minutes.