I have vivid memories of the Moomins haunting my dreams for much of my childhood, sinister characters like the ‘Groke’ and ‘Lady of the Cold’ being the subject of these dreams. Well, now the Moomins are back, but this time they’re far more whimsical and upbeat. Based on the comic strip written by Tove Jansson, Moomins on the Riviera is a Finnish/French animation and director Xavier Picard’s motion picture debut.
The opening scenes of Snufkin walking through Moominvalley are a fantastic nostalgia trip for seasoned viewers and a perfect introduction to the world for a new generation of viewers. After a pirate ship crashes near the valley, the Moomin family is convinced by the fame obsessed ‘Snorkmaiden’ to set sail for the French Riviera in the hopes of meeting her idol ‘Audrey Glamour’. When they arrive the family is divided, some are blown away by the glitz and the glamour, while others are not so convinced.
Fans of the English dubbed Japanese anime from the 90’s will remember the magical, but almost unsettling tone that it conjured up so well will be taken aback at first by the sheer contrast between the TV show and the new feature film. However, this uncertainty soon wore off when the film won me over with the visually beautiful hand drawn animation, bright pastel colours and general light-heartedness. The voice acting was also at first distracting as a fan of the show, but I grew to love the new voices and characteristics just as much.
One thing that remains consistent through all Moomin adaptations is their eccentricity, and here their lavish and quirky way of life gets them mistaken for royalty. Moominpappa befriends local artist Marquis Mongaga and many jokes are made at the expense of the state of modern art and suffering for ones art, while Snorkmaiden is sucked into the world of socialites and the needlessly wealthy, where many quips and jabs are also made.
At its core Moomins on the Riviera is an extremely loveable, big-hearted film with a cautionary tale; money, power and greed cannot always bring you what you want, in an age of excess maybe all you need is to enjoy a more simple life with friends and loved ones.
Fans of the franchise should hopefully walk away pleased as the quick run time delivers buckets full of nostalgia and a breath of fresh air for a new generation of fans who are looking for something a little different in an age of cinema overcrowded with superheroes and computer animation. With talks of a new TV series underway, hopefully we don’t have to wait as long to revisit Moominvalley again.
Dir: Xavier Picard, Hanna Hemilä
Scr: Leslie Stewart, Annina Enckell, Hanna Hemilä, Xavier Picard, Beata Harju, based on the comic strip by Tove Jansson
Starring: Russel Tovey, Nathaniel Parker, Tracey Ann Oberman, Ruth Gibson
Prd: Hanna Hemilä
Run time: 80 mins
Moomins on the Riviera is in cinemas now via VertigoFilms UK