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The Independent Critic

Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Cary Elwes, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Tony Jones
Steven Spielberg
Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Steven Moffatt, Herge (books)
Rated PG
107 Mins.
Paramount Pictures
The Journey to Tintin; Snowy: From Beginning to End; Ultraviolet

 "The Adventures of TinTin" Review 
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It was one of my prouder moments as a film critic when my peers in the Indiana Film Journalists Association joined me in giving the nod to 2011's Winnie the Pooh as runner-up in the contest for Best Animated Feature second only to the hipper, more adventurous Rango.

It's not that The Adventures of TinTin is a bad film. In fact, quite the contrary is true. The Adventures of TinTin may very well be the best use of motion capture technology yet, and most assuredly is vastly superior to anything that Robert Zemeckis, who has been bound and determined to perfect the technology, has been able to come up with thus far. The Adventures of TinTin is a consistently entertaining, beautifully constructed and surprisingly playful film from Spielberg. There was never a moment in the film where I found myself sitting in the movie theatre in a state of regret for having given the film my precious time but, in all honesty, neither was there a single moment in the film where I found myself completely enthralled by the story, its characters, the animation or any other aspect of the film.

Lifelong TinTin fans, mostly to be found in Europe but they do exist in the U.S., will likely find much to enjoy about this film even if it does seem to lack some of the key ingredients that make TinTin feel like TinTin. Most essentially, The Adventures of TinTin fails to capture the simplicity and thoughtfulness of the children's book with Spielberg apparently feeling compelled to at least moderately Americanize the very European production design and vocal work by an abundance of chase scenes, action sequences, battles, drunkenness and other things that keep the film almost exhaustingly busy.

TinTin (Jamie Bell) is a "boy journalist" with a fondness for adventures and mysteries. If you're familiar with the literary series, then you'll likely understand this a great deal more than if you find yourself staring at the screen wondering why a "boy journalist" has his own apartment, access to and knowledge of weapons and a garden variety of other abilities not typically assigned to "boys." Based upon the graphic novels by Belgian artist Herge thematically rather than towards a specific work, The Adventures of TinTin captures TinTin and his faithful fox terrier Snowy purchasing what appears to be a beautifully reproduced three-masted ship at an open-air market. TinTin is promptly offered a considerable sum for the ship but, of course, TinTin declines. One of the men, Sakharine (Daniel Craig), doesn't take kindly to TinTin's refusal and imprisons him aboard a freighter headed for who knows where. It's on the freighter that TinTin meets up with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a drunkenly chap who is somehow connected to this entire mystery.

The same issue that has always plagued motion capture continues to do so here - that is, quite simply, that no matter how beautiful the animation and how wondrous the physicality of it all it seems no one to this point has been able to overcome the complete lack of compelling emotions exhibited by the characters. Spielberg's work here is utterly amazing, vastly superior to any film created by Robert Zemeckis using motion capture. But, when it comes down to it, it's still not enough for The Adventures of TinTin to truly capture the hearts of those who will be paying to go see it.

In going back to my original point, it would be important to note that if one only considers the pure technology of animation then there's likely little question that The Adventures of TinTin is superior to Winnie the Pooh, a simpler production entirely and a film that remains remarkably faithful to its source material. However, there's much more to cinema than simply production values when it comes to looking at the fullness of filmmaking Winnie the Pooh becomes a superior film and a far more satisfying moviegoing experience.

There are a few things that keep The Adventures of TinTin within the boundaries of an enjoyable cinematic experience. Most of all, perhaps, is that Spielberg's fondness for the material is obvious and has resulted in a rather joy-filled film and a complete lack of pretense (unlike his Oscar bait War Horse) that runs a surprisingly slight time of just over 90 minutes. The original score by John Williams is one of the year's finest, a near masterpiece of epic heights and emotional resonance. While I'd still find myself preferring Howard Shore's score from Hugo and Ludovic Bource's masterful work on The Artist, it would be a grave injustice to not see Williams pick up an Oscar nomination for his work here.

The vocal work, as well, is uniformly solid though it shall be interesting to see how American audiences resonate with the heavily British cast with strong accents and source material primarily known to European audiences. The film has already proven to be quite popular overseas, with profitability most assuredly in the cards even if American audiences don't quite embrace the film.

Andy Serkis proves once again that he's the best vocal and motion capture actor working today, embodying Captain Haddock with a simultaneous blend of immense humor and full-on bravado. Jamie Bell is terrific, as well, as TinTin while Daniel Craig is appropriately dastardly as the rather evil Sakharine. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are here as two bumbling yet committed Interpol agents.

Spielberg collaborated with Peter Jackson on this film. Jackson served as co-producer and a second unit director, but the film's waning moments serves up a clear indication that Jackson may very well be bringing these adventures back in the near future.

The Christmas 2011 movie season is jam packed with solid options for your moviegoing pleasure, and there are multiple solid holdovers that may very well hold your attention, as well. The sure money for Christmas weekend seems to be on either Spielberg's more commercial project, War Horse, or the Matt Damon-led We Bought a Zoo.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic