A full hour into The Adventures of Tintin, Steven Spielberg's ripping-good holiday adventure, I paused to consider if my boyish enthusiasm for the 3D escapade was a singular experience. I needed only to look a few rows away to see a brother and sister, maybe 8 or 9 years old, literally bouncing in their seats during one of the thrill-a-moment chase sequences that make the film such a joy. All was right with the world, as it was with The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.
Tintin, source material unfamiliar to many Americans, enjoys cult status in much of Europe, where the film has been playing to boffo box office business since September.
Immortalized by Belgian illustrator Georges Remi (nom de plume Herge), Tintin has been a European best-seller since the 1930s. But U.S. audiences should find a kindred spirit with Tintin, the intrepid boy reporter. Think a young Clark Kent but with a lot more moxie. One of the true wonders of the film is that Spielberg invokes the feel of a classic page-turner, not unlike the best from Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London or even Rudyard Kipling.
But make no mistake--Tintin is truly a 21st century classic, complete with gorgeous animated scenes sweeping audiences from the streets of Belgium, across the high seas and on to a Moroccan oasis. The Secret of the Unicorn is a mash-up of several of Herge's twice-told tales. Here, Tintin (Jamie Bell) challenges the dastardly Ivan Sakharine (Daniel Craig) to solve a mystery of three hidden manuscripts, ultimately leading them to (what else) ancient treasure. No less than the French Foreign Legion and swashbuckling pirates enter the fray.
In one particular scene--which had my fellow audience members seat-bouncing--Tintin and Sakharine race through a Marrakech marketplace, employing a motorcycle, tank and, oh yes, a bazooka. The breath-taking pursuit pays homage to classic cinematic chases, including Spielberg's best from the Indiana Jones series. Coincidentally the score by John Williams (who penned the iconic Indiana Jones soundtrack) is always on-point to galvanize the action. I was convinced that Harrison Ford might step into the story at any moment.
Tintin is a brilliantly animated feature, a fact I had to remind myself of repeatedly because the performance-capture technology is so precise and textured. The film looks and, more importantly, feels like a true-to-life cinematic experience.
The reigning king of PCT-acting is Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong). In Tintin he plays Capt. Haddock, the seafaring merchant marine with a rum-soaked gift of gab.
"Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles," he blubbers to everyone's glee.
Tintin is a kid-friendly thriller that builds mystery and suspense while keeping the action tightly paced. There isn't a dancing penguin or singing chipmunk anywhere to be found, but Tintin is undoubtedly the sugar-plum treat of the season ... with just a splash of rum.