One of the most captivating heroines in children’s literature, Astrid Lindgren’s anarchic, magical Pippi Longstocking, finds herself in yet one more screen incarnation, this time as the star of an animated series on HBO.
Sadly, Pippi’s exuberant, unsinkable spirit just barely survives the pedestrian animation, slow pacing and stereotypically drawn characters with which she’s been saddled here by the Canadian production company Nelvana (which earlier produced HBO’s “Babar” series).
The series opens as Pippi, a little girl with gravity-defying pigtails, says goodbye to her father’s pirate crew, uses a mighty breath of air to send their ship on its way and takes her horse, monkey and treasure chest to her home, Villa Villekula, to await her father’s return.
She then quickly charms two new neighbors, Tommy and Anika, runs afoul of self-important town-folk and cheerfully cows bullies and the bumbling local constabulary with her amazing strength.
In subsequent episodes, Pippi foils burglars who are after the gold in her treasure chest, outsmarts con artists who want to sell her house and takes a hot air balloon trip.
Unfortunately, if newcomers to Lindgren judge her marvelous tall tales by the lack of momentum and one-dimensional quality found here, they’ll never know what a treat they’re missing. For the real stuff, the books still can’t be beat.
* “Pippi Longstocking” can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 7 a.m. on HBO.