[Screen It]


(2011) (voices of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis) (PG)

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Animated Action/Adventure: A young crime reporter teams up with a drunken ship captain to find a long lost treasure.
Tintin (voice of and motion control performance by JAMIE BELL) is a young reporter who, with the help of his dog Snowy, works on investigating various stories and such, while the likes of Inspector Thompson (voice of and motion control performance by SIMON PEGG) and Inspector Thompson (voice of and motion control performance by NICK FROST) handle crimes, such as a pickpocket who's been targeting their area.

While passing through a market one day, Tintin sees and buys an intricate model of the Unicorn, a great sailing ship of yesteryear. It's a purchase that draws the attention of various people who also want that model, including the sinister Ivanovich Sakharine (voice of and motion control performance by DANIEL CRAIG). Tintin says it isn't for sale, but realizes something is up when his place is broken into and the miniature ship stolen, likely meaning the model contained something valuable.

That suspicion is confirmed when Sakharine's men abduct Tintin and place him onboard a freighter they've commandeered from the drunken Captain Haddock (voice of and motion control performance by ANDY SERKIS). The two manage to help each other escape and make an unlikely team that tries to get to the bottom of what's occurring.

In one of his drunken states, Haddock eventually remembers the tale of his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock (voice of and motion control performance by ANDY SERKIS), the captain of the Unicorn so long ago who battled the notorious Red Rackham (voice of and motion control performance by DANIEL CRAIG) over a certain cargo onboard the vessel.

From that point on, Tintin tries to figure out what that was, all while avoiding Sakharine and his men who believe he possesses a scroll that will lead them to it.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
Back when he was making "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," the fourth installment of the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" series, director Steven Spielberg faced something of a daunting task. Would audiences buy Harrison Ford, the then 66-year-old star of the franchise, once again as the title character. After all, it had been nearly two decades since we last saw the performer doing the globe-trotting adventurer thing (and 27 years since his introduction).

And while moviegoers can be a forgiving lot if a beloved character is involved, a great deal of suspension of disbelief would be needed to pull off such a tale once again, not to mention the enormous production budget to make it look believable. For the most part the cinematic gambit worked, although it was obvious that the introduction of Shia LaBeouf's character was a potential hand-off of the series (which might have previously happened with River Phoenix after installment #3 had he not overdosed at the Viper Room four years later).

While the future of the "Indy" series is up in the air, the legendary director may have just found the answer to his quandary. And that comes in the form of an eighty-some-year-old-character by the name of Tintin. No, not Rin Tin Tin, but rather the comic strip character created by Belgian artist Georges Remi, a.k.a. Hergé. Although not exactly a household name in the U.S. or some other parts of the world, the young reporter character has been very popular for decades in Europe and other environs, also appearing in other literary, film, radio, television and theatre productions.

As luck would have it and/or as the stars would align just right, stories report that a French review of Spielberg's original "Raiders" film -- that he and producer George Lucas conceived as a loving bit of homage to old serial cliffhangers they enjoyed as kids -- actually brought up comparisons to Tintin. Now, Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson have teamed to bring the story of the plucky young reporter to the big screen. The result not only is an exhilarating ride, but also the best animated picture of 2011.

Yes, you read that right. For the first time in his long and illustrious career, Spielberg has helmed a fully animated feature film. But it's not of the old hand-drawn variety or even the Pixar style of computer animation. Instead, it utilizes the motion capture process that Robert Zemeckis first popularized with "The Polar Express." With that, actors perform in their scenes, but have sensors all over their bodies that computer wizards then turn into animated characters that they drop into animated backgrounds.

Although that process has progressively evolved in quality back from the "dead doll eyes" look that made "Polar Express" somewhat creepy, it still isn't my favorite way to see animation. That, and the fact that Spielberg was also going to do this in 3D didn't exactly boost my expectations, what with the format really being more a money-making gimmick than real tool (at least in most cases).

Much to my relief, Spielberg not only pushes the envelope with both formats, but they also give him something he seemingly hasn't had or at least shown in quite some time. And that's storytelling freedom. Sure, he's pretty much had access to all of the bells, whistles and star power Hollywood could muster in his recent flicks. And they were all good to great experiences. But the sense of fun, adventure and just letting loose -- now unencumbered by most any real-world physical limits -- really shines here.

Simply put, this offering feels like the best parts of the "Raiders" films as combined with the similarly enjoyable moments from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" flicks, with the directorial pedal pushed to the proverbial metal for most of the movie's 107-some minute runtime. In fact, many of the adventurous scenes really need a second or third viewing (or a slow-mo examination once this arrives on Blu-ray) as so much is packed into the visual field that it's difficult (but not in an unpleasant or distracting way) to take in everything that's presented.

The animation is nothing short of visually stunning to behold (and the 3D really adds to the experience this time around), and composer John Williams seems to be having as much fun with his lively score as his long-time filmmaking collaborator does behind the camera. Vocal work from the likes of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig and more is similarly top-notch, all of which really helps bring their characters to life (albeit in a purposefully cartoonish sort of way).

With the film already a huge hit internationally, North American audiences now get their chance to behold the fun experiences "The Adventures of Tintin" has to offer. Trust me, you won't be disappointed, and you probably won't be too upset that Spielberg might just forgo any further Indiana Jones adventures in favor of following up on this lively, enjoyable and highly entertaining offering. The film rates as a 7.5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 17, 2011 / Posted December 21, 2011

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