With the voices of Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Cary Elwes. Written by Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Rated PG (for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking). 107 minutes.
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN may set American/European relations back further than anything since the Bush administration. Tintin is the star of a beloved series of comic books created by the Belgian artist Hergé, who died in 1983. Never more than a cult figure in the United States, it’s odd that director Steven Spielberg should choose this for his debut as an animation director. American viewers with no background on Tintin will likely wonder what the fuss is all about.
Tintin (voice of Jamie Bell) is a young reporter who goes on globetrotting adventures with his dog Snowy. For some reason the animators have made him look like the actor Neil Patrick Harris, who has nothing to do with the film. In this adventure (based on several Tintin comics), he purchases a model boat which gains the attention of Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who needs to acquire it by any means necessary.
Tintin gets caught up in the mystery and discovers that the boat contains information regarding a lost treasure belonging to Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), an old and perpetually drunk sea captain. Tintin learns the secret of the boat and vows to help Haddock prevent Sakharine from stealing the family fortune. You can already guess where the story has to end up.
Unfortunately, viewers have to sit through endless action set pieces to get there, all of them full of sound and fury yet signifying nothing. Here’s a motorcycle chase after a piece of paper. Here’s an attack on a ship. Here are two cranes on a dock crashing into each other. This is the off-the-rails Spielberg of “1941” and “Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom,” planning action scenes that will undoubtedly wow 8-year-old boys as Spielberg panders to his inner child, but will leave many feeling like they’ve been hit over the head. Spielberg gets away with his worst excesses because he’s one of the most financially successful filmmakers of all time, but now working in animation, he can go even further because none of it is real.
One is hard-pressed to develop an appreciation for the original source from the movie with its “motion capture” movements and its characters all of whom – save Tintin – seem to sport huge noses. The movie gives off the simultaneous messages of “this is real” and “this is a cartoon,” undercutting itself the way a regular cartoon or live action film does not. While the choreography of a few of the action scenes may impress on a technical level, the fact remains that there’s little reason to care about these characters and whether they succeed or fail.
“The Adventures Of Tintin” will entertain boys craving chases and crashes, and adults who found “Fast Five” to be too subtle and nuanced. In other words, once school vacation is over, this movie will be heading quickly to home video.***
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.