The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount Pictures, PG)

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tin-tin 75While Jamie Bell and Daniel Craig are just fine, most of the pleasures of the film come from bit parts from great British comedians such as Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Mackenzie Crook.

 

tin-tin 500

After it floated around Europefor a couple of months already, here we are finally getting the Steven Spielberg motion capture film The Adventures of Tintin. They beat us to the punch, presumably on account of how the Tintin name is a bigger draw over there than it is here. The film is based on the French comic book series by Hergé (which begs the question of why a European project didn’t land this project). Perhaps Paramount wanted to pair it with the other Spielberg movie this season, War Horse, which is being released by Disney less than a week after the studio lets Tintin loose. (A review of War Horse is forthcoming, but here’s the short version: Tintin is a vastly superior film.)

While neither I nor much of anyone else seems to be a fan of this style of motion capture (most associated with Robert Zemeckis and films like The Polar Express), here it’s put to pretty good use, as is the 3-D technology, which is not something you’ll often hear me say. Tintin is a mostly family-friendly action movie about a young reporter named Tintin (Jamie Bell) who gets stuck in a web of sea vessels both miniature and real when he finds a particularly cool and presumably valuable one at a market, and thereby gains the unwanted attention of the nefarious-seeming Red Rackham (Daniel Craig). And while Bell and Craig are just fine, most of the pleasures of the film come from bit parts from great British comedians such as Simon Pegg (who co-wrote the screenplay and, after this and Paul, is having a particularly good year this year), Nick Frost, and Mackenzie Crook. The real scene-stealer, though, is Andy Serkis as the frequently drunk Captain Haddock. Serkis is for good reason associated with motion-capture technology and the best argument for it on account of his ably playing roles like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, more recently, Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

And while a lot of the secondary characters are memorable and fun to spend time with, the main thing most people will remember are the action sequences, particularly a lengthy chase toward the end of the film that starts on a motorcycle and is reminiscent of those videos that put you in the front of an actual rollercoaster, making you feel as if you’re actually on it; this sequence alone justifies the extra $3 per ticket to see the film in 3-D. The whole motion-capture/3-D combination is pretty aesthetically pleasing throughout, though, starting all the way at the beginning with the charming opening credits.

I don’t mean to imply that The Adventures of Tintin is a great film, as it does have its share of flaws, but it is amusing enough, and one of the better candidates for a family movie outing I’ve seen this holiday season. Though if that’s your intention you should perhaps be warned that there’s a lot more in terms of guns and alcohol in this movie than you might expect of a PG-rated film. Don’t let that stop you (the phrase “penis breath” didn’t keep everyone in the world from seeing E.T., after all), but just remember that Spielberg has a greater tendency to get away with more in PG-rated films than just about any other filmmaker. | Pete Timmermann

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