Since it’s the holidays and I have more spare time on my hands, I actually saw several movies this week: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (totally fun and awesome), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (totally disturbing and awesome), and The Adventures of Tintin. I wasn’t sure which to review at first, but then I decided to do the one most suited to a family trip to the movies during the holiday season. And that movie is The Adventures of Tintin. The plotline is taken from one of Herge’s original Tintin comic books:
An intrepid reporter and his dog team up with a cursed sea captain to uncover the mystery behind a treasure filled ship that disappeared a hundred years ago.
I watched the Tintin cartoon avidly as a kid, so while I was excited for the movie, I was also a little worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, like most of the nostalgia driven 90s movies they’ve made in the last few years (Transformers, The Smurfs, The Chipmunks, etc.) But I should have known better. Any movie directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson can’t help but be awesome.
The best part about The Adventure of Tintin (or The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn depending on who you ask) is that it felt exactly the same as watching the old cartoon. A taught blend of action and comedy, there wasn’t a single second during this movie where I wasn’t entertained. It feels like Indiana Jones, which makes sense, because the Tintin comics were what inspired those movies and they’re both set in the 1930s.
Tintin and Indiana also share an affinity for Egypt, the capitol of mystery and adventure.
Following the story from one of the comics, Tintin ( Jamie Bell) buys a model ship from a street vendor which makes him a target for the mysterious (and also rich and evil) Sakharine (Daniel Craig) who wants the secret clue to the location of the sunken Unicorn hidden inside. After being kidnapped, Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy meet up with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), the descendant of the Unicorn’s captain, and the three of them set out to find the other clues before Sakharine.
Unsurprisingly, Sakharine is descended from an evil pirate captain.
Their adventure takes them from the city to the open ocean to the desert to urban Egypt and back again. Tintin wants a good story for his paper, Haddock wants to clear his family name, and the bumbling Interpol detectives Thompson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) want to bring to justice a notorious pickpocket and criminal – not that they even notice when they’re standing among a hoard of ill-gotten gains.
I say, Thompson, what an impressive collection of wallets!
The movie is loaded with comedy of the type that both parents and kids can appreciate. Kids and adults alike will laugh out loud when the adorable and intelligent Snowy gets distracted by a sandwich or when a tank drags a whole hotel down the street. Grown ups will also pick up on subtler adult humor, like a famous French opera singer referring to Sakharine as “Monsieur Sugar Addetif” and Haddock’s description of one of his sailor comrades.
HADDOCK: “He’s a restless sleeper on account of the tragic loss of his eyelids.”
As the title suggests, The Adventures of Tintin is also packed with edge-of your seat adventure action that is only partly in direct contravention of the laws of physics. There are action scenes taking place on boats, on motorcycles, on foot, and there’s even a giant crane fight that has got to be one of the coolest and most original duels I’ve ever seen.
Enguard!… and look out below!
I was a little worried about the fact that they decided to use motion capture instead of CGI or classical animation. Past movies that have used this technique, like The Polar Express and Beowulf have animated speech and motions in a way that was subtly “off” and a little disconcerting. The characters in The Adventures of Tintin have the same problem with their speech (like in video game animation, where the mouth movements are too exaggerated) but I was so wrapped up in the incredible detail of everything from Tintin’s arm hairs to the texture of Haddock’s sweater that I didn’t really notice.
Hey, we’re solving a mystery here! Stop staring at my eyebrows!
The Adventures of Tintin is pretty near perfect. It really is fun for the whole family. Apart from Haddock’s alcohol obsession (which thematically makes it clear that drinking is bad anyway) and a little bit of gun violence, there’s really nothing to stop parents taking even younger children to see this movie. Just be prepared to track down some old Tintin comics or DVDs of the old TV show, because both you and your kids are going to want more as soon as the movie is over.
Oh, and by the way – Happy Holidays!