In Europe, generations of children have grown up with “The Adventures of Tintin,” a comic-book icon that draws nostalgic affection among grown boys the way, perhaps, “The Hardy Boys” does for audiences in America.
The series has been translated into 50 languages, sold over 200 million copies and – with moviemaking megastars Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson at the helm – spawned a movie that made $237 million in Europe before it even opened in the U.S., while being touted as a combination of Indiana Jones and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
But will American audiences fall in love the daring boy and his dog, Snowy?
I doubt it.
“The Adventures of Tintin” is a beautiful movie … but it’s also beautifully boring.
I’m sure European audiences that know Tintin and company may appreciate the homage given to his storyline, may be thrilled to see his many swashbuckling adventures and be mesmerized by the film’s gorgeous settings and scenes.
But as a Yank with no clue who Tintin is, I found no reason to relate to this rather bland Boy Scout of a protagonist and had to suppress scoffing laughter at the preposterously perilous situations he found himself in. Knowing that Tintin was never in any real danger of being harmed by the catastrophes crashing down around him, I wasn’t really drawn to the edge of my seat, and not knowing why I should care about his success or survival, the constant adventure – without much of a mystery to solve – amounted to little more than white noise on the silver screen.
The storyline and script simply didn’t draw my empathy toward the protagonist, and it’s never a good sign when halfway through the daring deeds and chases and crashes and spills and thrills I yawn and ask, “Who cares?” No amount of pretty animation can make up for weak characters and pedestrian script.
Many other critics, I’m aware, are raving about this film. Let it serve as a caution against putting too much stock in “critics” … even me.
The film follows a young reporter in the mid-20th century Europe who happens across a model ship at a street market and after purchasing it discovers it’s coveted by all sorts of shady characters.
When some of those characters break in to Tintin’s flat and swipe the ship, the young reporter and his daring dog are off on a whirlwind adventure to discover why. His quest takes him across the high seas, through pirate lore, on to North Africa and to cellars deep and dank in a European manse in search of answers.
Unfortunately, the only motivation given for the young fellow to risk life and limb is the hunt for a story to write … for … some newspaper or something. I guess.
Now, from a worldview perspective, the film does present a hero who is curious, noble, adventurous, polite, respectful, resourceful and a bit of a throwback to the days when heroes wore white hats and you didn’t have to question their motives or fear they’d turn all selfish when the going gets rough.
But the film itself has very little to say.
In fact, when the indomitable Tintin actually does suffer a moment of doubt and resignation, it comes as such an incongruous shock and departure from his character, that I thought he was actually kidding.
Only a few moments later did I realize, “Oh, he’s serious. I guess this is where the writers decided they have to throw in a moral to the story.”
The moral, however, for all my criticism of the film, is laudable.
“Plenty are willing to call you a failure,” a character encourages the downcast Tintin, “don’t you ever say that about yourself.”
“Something you need to know about failure,” it’s said shortly thereafter, “never let it defeat you. … When you hit a wall, push through it.”
These are all noble sentiments and could have served as an inspiring motivational speech, if the audience could believe for a moment that Tintin might actually feel defeated or be in any danger of not winning the day.
Once upon a time, a much ballyhooed movie was made called “Rebel Without a Cause,” but Tintin’s “Adventures Without a Cause” just doesn’t live up to the hype.
- “The Adventures of Tintin” contains only two minor profanities and no obscenities.
- The film has only two, veiled sexual references – one that might infer bestiality – both of which will be lost on all children and, frankly, most adults.
- The film is filled with chases, explosions, fistfights, gunfights, peril and violence of many sorts. There is no explicit gore, but the level of violence is still significant enough to merit caution for parents of small children.
- Though I don’t normally make comment on alcohol use, it should be noted that one of the film’s primary characters is frequently drunk and in search of more and more booze. His heavy drinking is a significant element of the plot and storyline, much more so than American audiences may be used to in animated film.
- The movie contains a couple of religious references. In one, a dying character verbally curses his adversary, which then comes to fruition in the latter character’s family tree, as his descendants suffer the curse. In the other, a statue is reverently referred to as “St. John the Evangelist, the Eagle of Patmos,” but little more is made of the reference.