Director: Steven Spielberg
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Rated: PG (For adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking)
In making “The Adventures of Tintin” I suspect Steven Spielberg reached way back in his childhood memory and brought up the excitement he felt as a child when he watched weekly serials at the movies. Indeed, weekly movie serials were what fueled him to direct the Indiana Jones movies. It must help that Tintin was a weekly comic strip that contained the flair and excitement of those old weekly serials and now he's taken that feeling and made it with cutting edge animation for families of a new generation. The irony in this is that most children today have never seen a weekly serial or know who Tintin even is…chances are their parents haven't heard of Tintin either.
The movie doesn't even do much to introduce the character, dropping in on him in the middle of his life. Tintin (Jamie Bell) is an established journalist who has already been on many adventures and solved many cases. His newest one (and the one we get to witness) involves a model ship that a criminal mastermind wants for reasons that are unclear at first, but what slowly turn out to be a great big treasure hunt. Key players include Tintin, a drunken sea captain named Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), and Tintin's aloof dog named Snowy, who is dedicated to his owner's adventures but confused on whether they should matter to him more than a turkey sandwich.
When I heard that Spielberg planned to make this into an animated film using motion capture technology I was skeptical and hopeful. I was skeptical because the artwork in Tintin has always been simplistic at best, and the idea of it looking realistic bothered me. Well, while it contains human weight behind the characters and some more detail to the face, this is a cartoon through and through. An acquaintance of mine saw this movie long before I did (thanks to an earlier international release) and commented that it was “the most realistic animation [she'd] ever seen.” This is an oxymoronic statement to make. No one likes animation when it looks real, they like it because it's NOT real!
That said, to put a comment like this into perspective it should be noted that in a funny way some of the best animation is the kind that FEELS real! Take a chase sequence that involves multiple people chasing after three scraps of paper. This is a masterful piece of film making where the entire ten minute plus scene involves a single camera shot that swoops, moves, and sways all over the place. In a live action film this scene would be nearly impossible to do properly, but in animation the skies are the limit, and Spielberg is such a masterful director that the scene feels real even though it's preposterous beyond words. It may very well be the finest chase sequence I've ever seen in all the years I've been viewing and reviewing movies.
Despite all the raving of camera angles, perspective, and animation aside, the story of “The Adventures of Tintin” is extremely simple and basic. But it's so much fun I have a hard time arguing against it. If you go into this movie and don't leave having some of the most fun you've had at the movies all year, then I wonder what excitement at the movies means to you. What we have with “The Adventures of Tintin” is another unique family film that is solid enough to hold its own against the films that are being made for “grown up's.” There are not five extremely good family films to take your kids to over the Christmas break and I've given more than four stars to three of them. So if you decide to pass any of these up in favor of “Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked”…I'm sorry, but there's just no helping you then.
Parents, there is a lot of action adventure violence, none of it menacing until the final scene. Recommended for ages 8 and up.