Written for RAF News May 2015
Tove Jansson’s classic comic strip has found its way to the big screen after 60 years, with the Moomins setting sail for the south of France in search of adventure and a taste of the high-life.
Snorkmaiden, taken by the allure of champagne on the beach, leads Moomin (a cingeworthy Russel Tovey), and his family, as they set out in a humble sail boat across stormy seas to find themselves like fish out of water among the glitz and glamour of the Riviera.
The traditional hand-drawn animation gives the film a beautiful composition that can at times blossom into glorious surrealism – roughly sketched storm clouds shed long streams of raindrops over a golden sea as the well-meaning Moomins find themselves in trouble once again.
Where most films aimed at children these days have an edge to them, layered with jokes for the parents or breaking from the story with a wink-nudge, Moomins on the Riviera carries charm in its sincerity (although there is one brilliantly absurd moment when a character falls in love and has to get his cousin to take his place in the story whilst he gets married.) Where 2D cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants and puppets like the Thunderbirds have been converted into CGI its impressive how Moomins holds onto its very essence in both values and visual style.
Throughout their ordeal of being mistaken for eccentric royalty and running up bills that they can’t pay, the Moomin family maintain their naïve sense of wonder and innocence. Though they can be swallowed by insecurities and anxiety, they are for the most part delightfully free of self-awareness. This works in complete contrast to the snooty jet-sets of the south of France where the sharp faced locals are interested only in status and celebrity. “We simply don’t fit in here” comments MoominMama, noticing the gap between their way of life and that of local star Audrey Glamor.
Moomins on the Riviera meanders for the most part but it is certainly a heart-felt children’s film that, like the family leading the adventure, isn’t trying to be something it isn’t and embraces its character.