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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Moomins on the Riviera movie review: really old-fashioned adventure

Moomins on the Riviera red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

The hand-drawn animation is serene and charming, but the story and characters are so unpleasantly retrograde that I found little enjoyment here.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Maybe it’s because I was not introduced to the beloved Moomins when I was a child. But I don’t see the attraction. Sure, Finnish cartoonist Tove Jansson’s family of hippo-like creatures are odd but gentle bohemians, which should theoretically appeal to me. Yes, the hand-drawn animation is more serene than the CGI onslaught that modern animation tends to be; it’s simple yet charming and reflects the colors and esthetics of the time when this story first appeared in British newspaper comic strips in 1955 (even though the original strips where in black-and-white, of course). But the story and characters are unpleasantly retrograde, so much so that it spoiled any enjoyment I might have gotten out of this.

Moominmamma (the voice of Tracy Ann Oberman: Hector and the Search for Happiness) wears an apron and makes tea; Moominpappa (the voice of Nathaniel Parker: Flawless) lounges around waiting for Mamma to feed him. The defining characteristic of their son, Moomin (the voice of Russell Tovey: Pride), seems to be romantic jealousy over his girlfriend, Snorkmaiden (the voice of Stephanie Winiecki), and her defining characteristics are fantasizing about film stars and fretting over her appearance. (Everyone is rewarded in the end for behaving like this.) They end up in the French Rivieria after a relaxing sail in a storm blows them in that direction, where Snorkmaiden buys a bikini that Moomin deems “risque” even though it’s more clothes than she usually wears (they all go around mostly naked) and ignites his ire by swooning over a playboy.

They’re all shockingly naive (they don’t understand that when the fanciest hotel on the beach calls them “guests,” they are still expected to pay for their extravagant stay), which is supposed to be humorously adorable. It really isn’t.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Moomins on the Riviera for its representation of girls and women.

red light 1.5 stars

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Moomins on the Riviera (2015) | directed by Xavier Picard, Hanna Hemilä
US/Can release: Jan 19 2021 (VOD)
UK/Ire release: May 22 2015

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated U (no material likely to offend or harm)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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