Herge’s “Tintin” comics have been huge in France since they were first published in 1929, but have never quite translated to American popularity. In the 1990s, an animated version of Tintin stories showed up on American TV, on Nickelodeon – which was the go-to channel for my kids in those days. But “Tintin” would have ranked well below “Rugrats,” “The Angry Beavers” and “Rocko’s Modern Life” on my sons’ list of favorite shows.
Yet here comes Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, bound and determined to transform the mildly humorous adventures of an intrepid boy reporter into a big-budget computer-animated hit. Unfortunately, they find themselves trapped on the Road to Hell, paving furiously.
“The Adventures of Tintin” is certainly glorious-looking. The filmmakers’ mastery of motion-capture animation, however, can’t compensate for a witless script that blends unimaginative slapstick, weak wordplay and a lavishly complex adventure story that can’t compensate for its lack of excitement. The trio of scriptwriters includes Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) and Joe Cornish (last year’s sleeper hit, “Attack the Block”) – which makes it that much more disappointing.
I’m guessing that true Tintin fans will take a while to adjust to the literal, human characters that Spielberg has imagined. Rather than adapting Herge’s cartoony style – which served him well for lo these many decades – Spielberg tries to make the characters into realistic humans, although ones created digitally from, well, real human actors.
But at least there was something charming about the dotted eyes that made Tintin kin to Little Lulu and her ilk. Keep in mind that Pinocchio was a lot more fun when he was a puppet than a real boy, too.
This Tintin is played by Jamie Bell, who has the right can-do attitude in his voice and physicality. Tintin is walking through a flea market in, apparently, Brussels (Herge’s hometown), when he comes across a model ship that’s on sale for a bargain price. Almost as soon as he buys it, however, several other people try to buy it from him. No sale.
But when Tintin takes it home, it’s stolen from him almost instantly.
This review continues on my website.