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IN SHORT: Disappointing. [Rated PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking. 107 minutes]
For those new to the site, it is our prime rule that you should not have to know anything about the source material for what you are about to see. The Adventures of Tintin is based upon a series of books famous throughout the world; in America, if you are old enough, you may have a vague recollection of seeing Tintin cartoons on Saturday morning teevee. If you had read the books as a kid, and remember them well, you'll probably like The Adventures of Tintin much more that we did (and we barely remember the cartoons from our kidlethood, forty years ago). Then again, we're American. Tin Tin was never as big a seller here as it was in Europe and the rest of the world.
Tintin (Jamie Bell) is a reporter for a Belgian newspaper. We're not sure if he's a twenty something who looks fifteen or if he's a fifteen year old that just happens to fall into great adventures and gets to write about them for a newspaper. At a flea market, he purchases a model of a long lost, three masted sailing ship called The Unicorn. Almost immediately, he is confronted by a loudmouthed American, Barnaby (Joe Starr) and a mysterious Russian, Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig), both demanding to buy the model from him. No dice. The model is given a place of honor in his home, while Tintin goes off to research the history of The Unicorn.
Said history will involve a pirate called Red Rackham (Daniel Craig) and his ongoing rivalry with the Unicorn's Captain Sir Francis Haddock (Andy Serkis). The Unicorn sank centuries ago, its hold reportedly stuffed to the gills with gold and other treasures. Finding the wreck would reward the lucky salvage team millions of times over.
it isn't long before there is a break in at Tintin's home and a theft. What the thieves really want, though, is a slip of paper that had been hidden in the model of the Unicorn, and accidently dislodged by Tintin's playful sidekick, a dog named Snowy. As the story unrolls (kinda like the slip of paper hidden in the model) Tintin will discover that there are actually three models of the ship, each with its own hidden slip of paper. Together, the papers will yield a clue to the location of the wreck but . . . there's always a but . . . the clue will be understandable only to the last descendant of the original Captain Haddock (also Serkis). This captain Haddock is a useless alcoholic, more at home in the bottle than on the high seas. That's parental warning number one.
Stumbling through the story are two INTERPOL detectives Thompson & Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), hunting the criminal Sakharine, who will eventually kidnap Tintin and Haddock; opening enough bottles to keep the last Captain Haddock "in his cups". The story then kicks into high gear as an adventure on land air and sea, spanning at least two continents. The pacing is frenetic. It should be just what boys like. Unfortunately, the story also requires the boyish looking hero to brandish a gun against the bad guys. Granted, Tintin is using said weapon to shoot down a small airplane but, Parents, consider this: IF you're bringing the kidlets to the movies for a real father/ son (sic) bonding experience, do you really want a boyish looking hero firing off a gun? Historically, at the time Tintin was created, heroes were supposed to be boys. Our side of the pond had Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer (the former carried a gun against an abusive father. The latter actually got shot at one point) and dozens of fledgling prose heroes in the pulp magazines and later comic books of the era drew their own line in the sand. The rule in those (boys) adventure stories was simple. No guns.
As a grown-up in a new century, living in a big city where gun use is a problem, the gun use in The Adventures of Tintin causes me problems. Forget that all will work out in the end. Ignore that the great John Williams' drops a two chord homage to the Indiana Jones series into his score for Tin Tin on more than one occasion. If you are of parental age and feel Tintin is probably appropriate for your little ones, please watch it first, without the kiddies. Kiddies like to imitate. If you've got a gun in the house . . . .
My concern is not explaining how we just got from plot point "A" to plot point "G" in just a sentence. Nor will I give away any of the back end of the movie, except to say that the screenplay does make a terrific connection between events involving the original Unicorn and the personnel involved and counterparts in the present. We won't tell you how. There are other, bigger problems to address.
As we told the publicity contact for the film after watching it (with some children in the audience): Who is this film made for? Is the hero supposed to be a mini-Indiana Jones or a pistol packing Jimmy Olsen type . Is Tintin a rousing adventure made for kids to watch close to the screen, while the parents get some time off in the back row? (that is what yours Cranky expected). Is it to be the great bucket of popcorn passer, so that the entire family can watch together?
We don't put the dollar rating on family friendly movies. We just give the thumbs up or thumbs down. As a lifelong comic book fanboy we had high hopes for The Adventures of Tintin. The story is frenetic, just like boys like, butthe script is a mess. The characters are not developed; the action sequences come at you helter skelter and Tintin's use of a gun -- and the story's constant return to the drunken Haddock as a comedy device -- causes us concern.
Given the success of TintIn around the world; given that yours cranky is a 'toonhead, I hate having to say "no" to this film. The teaming of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson (who committed to a sequel when this film was still in production), the rest of the world's greater exposure to the Tintin canon will probably pump enough money into the studio coffers that there will be a second film. Maybe the stories adapted for the next film will be chosen wisely.
Be we can't be enthusiastic about The Adventures of Tintin.
Those wanting to read the original stories first, this film adapts three Tintin stories: "The Crab with the Golden Claws", "The Secret of the Unicorn" and "Red Rackham's Treasure".
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