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The Adventures of Tintin

“The Adventures of Tintin” is a rollicking action/adventure story that never sits still, hearkening back to an age of comic book serials, when the writer had maybe ten panels to pick up where the story left off, take us on an adventure, and then end on a cliffhanger to make you buy the next issue.   So much happens so fast in this film that I’m not quite sure I kept up. Our hero, Tintin, is a newspaper reporter of indeterminate age (late teens?  early twenties?) on the track of the greatest story of all time.  A quick glance at the framed headlines on his walls show that he’s always on the track of such a story; it’s a glamorous life, that of us journalists, and few can keep up.   Do your best.

Tintin buy a model ship at a flea market that contains a secret message.  Actually there are three model ships with secret messages, and a gran villain (Daniel Craig) has the other one.  A great deal of the action happens in pursuit of the third ship; it belongs to a sheik and is encased in bulletproof glass.  One of the many pleasures of “Tintin” is the return of classically exotic adventure locales; in quick order we are aboard a giant steamer, then adrift at sea, then wandering through the desert, then ambushing a Middle Eastern palace.   Few action movies enjoy their locations as much as this one.

The cast of characters around Tintin salt the swashbuckle with generous dashes of humor.   Snowy seems like the real hero most of the time – where would Tintin be without his smart and incredibly resourceful dog?  Simon Pegg & Nick Frost bumble along as police inspectors Thomson and Thompson, and, of course, there’s drunken, melodramatic Captain Haddock. It might be troubling for some parents that Haddock, Tintin’s other sidekick, is only useful when he’s drunk, which is most of the time.  At one point, his sudden soberness is a real problem that must immediately be “fixed” for the story to go forward.  I don’t remember him being drunk quite this often in the comics, which I started reading around the age of 12, and then got my little brother addicted to when he was about 12.   (He thinks “Adventures of Tintin” is the best movie of the year.  He might be right.)

 It’s good to see Steven Spielberg return to this kind of material – it reminded me more than anything of the good clean fun in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”  Can we consider this the next Indiana Jones movie, and forget about Crystal Skull altogether?   Secret of the Unicorn is far superior to that piece of derivative silliness.  You can (and maybe ought) to separate Spielberg’s films into “fun” and “serious” – Indiana Jones and E.T. belonging to the former category, “Schindler’s List,” and “Saving Private Ryan” to the latter.  “Tintin” is one of Spielberg’s best “fun” films.  It’s probably the most fun I’ve had watching a Spielberg film since “Jurassic Park,” and certainly one the best, smilingest times I’ve had at the movie theater this year.
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