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A pleasant if slow time had by all in 'Moomins on the Riviera'

 A pleasant if slow time had by all in 'Moomins on the Riviera'
A scene from "Moomins on the Riviera." (Handle Productions Oy)

The Moomins, a pleasant family of hippo-like creatures, were created decades ago by Finnish writer-artist Tove Jansson and her brother, Lars, in a series of books they later adapted to a comic strip. "Moomins on the Riviera," a Franco Finnish co-production directed by Xavier Picard, was created in 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of Tove Jansson's birth.

After a visit from a band of inept pirates, Moominmamma (voice by Tracy Ann Oberman) and Moominpappa (Nathaniel Parker) set off for the Riviera with their son, Moomin (Russell Tovey), and his girlfriend, Snorkmaiden (Stephanie Winiecki). Ensconced in the posh Grand Hotel, Snorkmaiden becomes infatuated with movie star Audrey Glamour (Shelley Blond) and playboy Clark Tresco (Dave Browne) — to Moomin's chagrin. Moominpappa strikes up a friendship with elephant sculptor manqué Marquis Mongaga (Bernard Alane).

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But the family isn't really happy being away from their idyllic Moomin Valley and soon return home. From his hammock, Moominpappa expounds his philosophy, "Live in peace, plant potatoes and dream."

The simple, drawn characters and backgrounds (the clouds are just clusters of lines) stand in marked contrast to elaborately rendered worlds in recent American CG features. But "Riviera" suffers from a weak story with an obvious ending. Very young children may be amused by these minimal characters, but the slow pace and thin content will have older children and adults fidgeting in their seats.

The Moomins have been repeatedly animated and extensively merchandised in Japan, where "Moomins on the Riviera" will probably find a more enthusiastic audience.

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"Moomins on the Riviera"

Running Time: 1 hour, 17 minutes.

MPAA rating: None.

Playing: Laemmle Royal Theater, West L.A.

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