Movie Review: "The Adventures of Tintin"Published December 21, 2011
Like most Americans, Spielberg had never heard of Tintin; the character (widely known throughout Europe) remained unknown to Spielberg until the 1980s, when a French reviewer compared Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark to the Belgian cartoon. Captivated, Spielberg gained interest in Tintin, and it resulted in an effort that produced The Adventures of Tintin, which opens in theatres today, December 21.
Tintin, a baby-faced late teen with the air of a boy scout, has what all great detectives have—an irrepressible curiosity. All three main characters have a nose for something; for Tintin it’s the whiff of a story, Snowy the dog sniffs… well… he’s a dog, and for drunken Captain Haddock, he follows the scent of booze.
The adventure begins with intrepid reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) strolling through a market with his ever-faithful dog, Snowy, and spots a model boat in an antique ship, the Unicorn. Tintin buys it, and that’s when the trouble begins. Enter the dastardly villain, Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who will go to any lengths to get the boat, knowing that it holds the secret of riches aboard the real Unicorn ship.
Following his purchase, Tintin is kidnapped and tied up. In quintessential sidekick fashion, Snowy comes to his rescue by chewing through the ropes. Yet, despite his heroics, Snowy succumbs to his doggie instincts in scene-stealing fashion; undermining Tintin, who is determined to get away, Snowy fails to grab the keys that will help them escape as his attention is diverted from the keys by the smell of a sandwich.
Soon after, they meet Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a slapstick drunk aboard the ship. More mayhem ensues and the three manage to escape by ingeniously rigging a stream of machine gun “bullets” made from flying wine bottle corks. Throughout, the magnificent dog Snowy mugs for the camera. Spielberg said “Snowy brings the audience in. His point of view says to the viewers, ‘Yeah, I’m with you, this is all very confusing.’”
As with many of Spielberg’s action flicks, there’s only one small role for a female but her scene is a showstopper. She is the overbearing opera singer, the Milanese Nightingale, Bianca Castafiore (Maureen Forrester). During her performance in Morocco at the sultan’s palace, she hits deafening soprano notes that shatter everything shatterable—drinking glasses, chandeliers and even a bullet proof display case protecting one of three identical ship models that holds another clue to finding the Unicorn. Snowy, runs under a table whimpering and covers his ears with his paws. The evil Sakharine swoops in and steals the now unguarded ship scroll. That’s when Tintin jumps on a motorbike and races down a winding, twisty hill for a six-minute take that ranks at the top of movie magic.
Overall, scenes like the one described above give the audience a viewing experience that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Additionally, the film’s supporting characters bring texture and comic relief. You’ll meet the hilarious Scotland Yard twin detectives Thomson and Thomson (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) who bumble and stumble over the most obvious clues while in pursuit of Aristedes Silk (Toby Jones). Silk is a pickpocket who claims he’s not a thief, yet admits to kleptomania. Silk only steals wallets because, he says, “I love them.”
Others include Barnaby (Joe Starr), Nestor (Enn Reitel) and the long-suffering butler, Mr. Crabtree (also voiced by Reitel).
Tintin, with an adventurer’s spirit that any human or animal would appreciate, asks, “How is your thirst for adventure, Captain?” Haddock replies, “Unquenchable.” The camera zooms in on Snowy’s adorable face barking with excitement. I bet Snowy can smell a sequel in progress.
The Adventures of Tintin opens today, Wednesday, December 21, two months after its release overseas where it has already pulled in upwards of $240 million.
Dorri Olds writes reviews and personal essays for numerous publications, including The New York Times.