Originally published December 20, 2011 at 12:05 AM | Page modified December 23, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Movie review

'The Adventures of Tintin': It's Spielberg's Indy, but with a cowlick

A movie review of "The Adventures of Tintin," director Steven Spielberg's tale of the fearless, quick-witted kid hero of the graphic novels by Belgium's Hergé. The filmmaker recaptures the spirit of the fastest-moving and most purely enjoyable movie of his career: "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'The Adventures of Tintin,' with Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig. Directed by Steven Spielberg, from a screenplay by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. 127 minutes. Rated PG for some intense action sequences, drinking and some smoking. Several theaters.

Trailer: 'The Adventures of Tintin'

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You get the feeling Steven Spielberg had a whole lot of fun making "The Adventures of Tintin."

The picture permitted him to recapture the spirit of the fastest-moving and most purely enjoyable movie of his career, "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Tintin (Jamie Bell), the boy hero of the immensely popular and long-running series of graphic novels by Belgian author Georges Remi, aka Herge, travels to exotic foreign locales and gets into and out of all sorts of hair-raising scrapes.

He's fearless. He's clever. He's indomitable. He's Indiana Jones.

Or more precisely, he's Indy without the fedora but rather with a signature stand-up cowlick, without the bullwhip but with a doughty little doggy named Snowy.

Spielberg has said he hadn't heard of Tintin until after he made "Raiders" in the early 1980s and learned that European critics were drawing comparisons between his hero and Herge's. He recognized the similarities at once, and now in his "Adventures of Tintin" he's embraced the connection.

A mystery, involving a trio of three-masted ship models containing coded messages, sends the lad racing around the world in search of answers. Gunfights, a plane crash, a sea battle and more gunfights ensue. And although Tintin is chased and shot at, clouted and captured by assorted baddies (led by Daniel Craig), Spielberg handles the potentially deadly doings with a whimsical touch. As he swims submerged toward some evildoers in a seaplane, all we see of the kid is his super-stiff cowlick slicing through the waves like a shark fin. Clever, that "Jaws" reference, and just the thing to break the tension.

Much of the comic relief comes courtesy of Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis, affecting a Scottish brogue that sounds pilfered from Gerard Butler). Called, with good reason, "a drunkard and a hopeless reprobate" by some, Haddock, with his sozzled blustering — "Blue blistering barnacles!" — and his bungling — oops, sorry about that wrong-way bazooka shot — is an effective foil for the much more sobersided Tintin.

Spielberg teamed with Peter Jackson (they share producer credit) to make "Tintin," and he used the motion-capture technology Jackson perfected in creating Gollum (also played by Serkis in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) to make an animated 3-D extravaganza that astonishes in its degree of visual detail.

Spielberg isn't an innovator with this technology in the way he was with "Jurassic Park" and its computer-generated dinos, but he uses this style of high-tech animation with the joy of a kid let loose in a candy store.

Soren Andersen:

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