‘Tintin’ a new, old-fashioned adventure

Article Published: Dec. 25, 2011 | Modified: Dec. 29, 2011
‘Tintin’ a new, old-fashioned adventure

From left, Andy Serkis and Jamie Bell star in 'The Adventures of Tintin.'

The first time I heard of “Tintin,” I thought it was somehow related to “Rin-Tin-Tin,” what with a crime-solving, adventuring dog and all.

Later realizing it was an unrelated comic strip, I again missed the mark, thinking the titular character was, indeed, still a dog.

Turns out the character is not a dog, but rather a young European journalist who has a dog. I was surprised, yet again.

I was also surprised when Steven Spielberg announced his next film would be an animated adaptation of “Tintin,” even more so when it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable adventures of the year.

Though not without fault, “The Adventures of Tintin” seems like a return to classic form for Spielberg (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”), and that is a very, very good thing. The film is beautifully animated, with some sets and scenery almost indistinguishable from the real thing, while its motion-captured characters also appear real on the surface, but cartoonish enough so they never take on that creepy, dead-eyed Robert Zemeckis “Polar Express” look.

The 3-D presentation is nice, but hardly necessary. Wisely, Spielberg doesn’t pander to 3-D gimmickry and has made a durable picture that would also work well on a 2-D screen.

The globetrotting tale moves at a quick, fun pace, not forsaking character for action, but deftly combining the two – all accompanied by a sweeping score from John Williams ("Star Wars"). Put simply, “The Adventures of Tintin” is more like a Spielberg “Indiana Jones” film than the last “Indiana Jones” film.

Created by artist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pseudonym, Hergé, “The Adventures of Tintin” was first published in 1929 and revolves around the exploits of boy reporter Tintin and his intelligent dog, Snowy.

Since then, Tintin’s adventures have also been depicted in stop-motion animation, live action and hand-drawn animated features. Thanks to Spielberg, executive producer Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings”) and a crack team of writers – Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”), Steven Moffat (TV’s “Doctor Who”) and Joe Cornish (“Attack of the Block”) – “Tintin” gets a modern retelling from filmmakers who obviously love the genre.

It’s a genre of classic adventure, as Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell, “Billy Elliot”) and his stalwart pooch, Snowy, are promptly swept into a centuries-old mystery involving a long-lost ship and buried treasure. It all happens after he unwittingly purchases a highly sought-after model ship from a street vendor.

The cunning Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig, “Casino Royale”), for reasons yet unknown to Tintin, wants the model ship for his own and is willing to break the law – even violently – to get it. The model is one of three that bears a hidden piece of a treasure map, and when Tintin discovers this, he’s soon abducted and placed aboard a freighter bound for an unknown destination.

On board, he encounters the perpetually inebriated Capt. Haddock (Andy Serkis, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), who’s suffered a mutiny at the hands of his crew, whose loyalty was bought by the villainous Sakharine. It seems Haddock has a literal connection to the mystery, and Sakharine wants him alive. The same can’t be said for Tintin, however.

Tintin, Snowy and Haddock must escape their captor’s clutches, unravel the mystery and find the treasure before it falls into the wrong hands, which, as it happens, would also doom Haddock and his family’s legacy.

“Tintin” hits the ground running and barely lets up for its duration, but not in such a way that it grows tiresome. Spielberg keeps things light, fast-paced and funny in an animated world that’s nothing short of dazzling. But it moves along so breezily that its climax can almost be mistaken for just another action sequence, leaving viewers with an “Is that it?” sort of feeling and an anticlimactic ending that nevertheless promises a sequel.

But there’s still plenty to enjoy. The voice acting is spot on, with Bell, Serkis and Craig bringing life to these animated sprites, though an honorable mention should go to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” fame) whose portrayal of bumbling twin detectives Thomson and Thompson is simply hilarious.

And the swell thing about Spielberg is he doesn’t pander to a certain audience. “Tintin” can be enjoyed by both kids and adults, but the filmmakers don’t shy away from the material, which admittedly features some gunplay, violence and alcohol. Most studios would gawk at the notion, eager to replace these components with rapping, dancing animals, but “Tintin” stays true to its genre –old-fashioned adventure.

“The Adventures of Tintin,” rated PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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