The Adventures of Tintin

Journey with us now to the days of your youth, and the many hours you spent sprawled in front of a blazing fire reading about Tintin and his amazing adventures!

I mean, if you’re a 70-year-old Belgian.

If not, you probably don’t know who the hell Tintin is.

I don’t know about you but I’m sort of at the point where, when Spielberg makes a movie, I’m just, like, “Whatever, dude.” Seriously. Have the horse, like, defuse the bomb, or whatever. Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? I’ve mentioned how the moment that Indy rode the submarine across the Atlantic killed my enjoyment.

It’s just too stupid, you know? At any point, it submerges, as subs are wont to do—it’s even built into the name!—and you’re drowned. Even if you could hang on the entire length of the trip, it’d be a stupid thing to do.

So I readjust how I watch his movies. And that’s worked for a while. But he keeps pushing the limits of dumb. It results in bizarre flicks like War Horse. Here? He’s got CGI. So you don’t even get the wow-factor of knowing that a shot was complicated to set up and choreograph. It’s all some damn computer program.

Spielberg + CGI is a bad idea. The camera swooshes around because it can. The action sequences are so preposterous that they exacerbate Spielberg’s already bad problem with eliminating all the suspense and thrill by reminding the viewer he’s there guiding every moment of activity. If you could escape the uncanny valley for a moment—which is difficult because the voices don’t seem to quite sync with the mouths—Spielberg throws you back in with some kind of silly shenanigans.

The Adventures of Tintin is almost as bizarre as War Horse. It’s sensibilities aren’t quite modern American, with the titular teen hero being allowed to run-around post-war Europe and Africa, shoot guns and do all sorts of non-PC things.

This was kinda cool. I can only assume that he expected to make his money in the worldwide market.  (And he was right: About 75% of this movie’s box is from the worldwide market.)

But you know what else is a bad idea? Speilberg + comic book. He already has trouble deciding whether to—well, look at Nolan’s Batman movies: Hardcore realism. He never wants you do challenge the literalness of his movies. Whereas Burton just wanted something that looked cool.

Spielberg always seems to create a literal reality out of soap bubbles that he gleefully pops if  you should ever start to feel invested. For example, Tintin has a dog, Snowy. (If you’re like most people I’ve discussed it with, you probably thought Tintin was the dog, but that’s Rin Tin Tin—no relation.) Sometimes Snowy’s a dog, with dog powers. But if you ever need it, he’s also a dog-ex-machina, who can read or capture the scroll from a hawk (don’t ask), or whatever.

Look, at one point, an airplane crash due to low fuel is averted by having a drunk belch into the carburetor.

Maybe if it were cleverer. You know kind of Lewis Carroll-y where the absurdity is countered by puns or something. As it is, it feels ad hoc, sloppy, just not very engaging at all. There are a couple of incompetent Interpol cops, who look alike and have the same name (but who are not related), who provide slapstick comic relief which is as cute as it is unnecessary. (The movie never suffers from enough dramatic tension to require comic relief.)

But, hey, we weren’t there so I could see it. The Barb wanted to, and she was ready to watch it again as soon as we watch the theater. Which, by the way, is true so far of every movie she’s seen.

The movie ends weird, too. The actual ending is about 15 minutes before the credits roll, and the end is basically a setup for a series. Not even a sequel, but a series.

You’re kind of expecting a surprise or a big finish, and it’s just not there. It’s all lead in for breakfast cereal and SatAM cartoons.

I didn’t hate it, actually. It’s better than The Zookeeper or The Smurfs. But it’s all part of the big mishmash of mediocrity that closed out 2011.

Star-studded cast of voices. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the Interpol cops, while Edgar Wright has a script credit (reuniting the cast of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and “Spaced!”) so, I dunno, maybe this was saved from being another 1941 by some serious script doctoring.

I should note that this seems to be something of a crowd-pleaser, according to IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. So, maybe I’m just getting curmudgeonly(er) in my old(er) age. At the same time, it didn’t set the box office on fire, and I have to wonder if that’s because, you know, it sucked. Adjusted for inflation, the box office this and War Horse are situated between Always and Amistad—and actually well below 1941.

Interestingly, Tintin cleaned up worldwide while War Horse didn’t.

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