A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of Herge's classic Tintin comic books is sure to delight adventure-loving tweens. The action is virtually nonstop and includes swashbuckling pirate violence, explosions, kidnapping, and gun shots. Some of the scenes might be too peril-filled for younger elementary-aged viewers, but kids who like Indiana Jones-style fun will be entertained. Of more concern to some parents may be the fact that one of the main characters is perpetually drunk or looking for his next shot of whisky throughout much of the movie; others disapprove of his behavior, but it's a big part of the film. That aside, with its teen hero and a suspenseful plot full of high-seas intrigue, The Adventures of Tintin is an ideal animated adventure for middle-graders and up.
What's the story?
Despite his youth, Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) is a renowned investigative reporter whose best friend is his intrepid dog, Snowy. After he buys a replica of a legendary pirate ship called the Unicorn at an outdoor market, Tintin is immediately approached by an aggressive interested buyer named Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig). The sinister Sakharine kidnaps Tintin (and stowaway Snowy) and places them aboard a cargo ship, but the duo escapes and frees the captive (and usually drunk) Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) from his mutinous crew. Tintin realizes that Sakharine and his goons are after hidden scrolls that will lead to a sunken treasure buried by Haddock's ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock. It's a race between Tintin and Haddock and their nemesis to see who can find the final scroll -- and the treasure -- first.
Is it any good?
Director Steven Spielberg's name evokes a level of cinematic genius that in this case might work against the legendary filmmaker. Audiences expecting an epic on the scale of Raiders of the Lost Ark might be slightly disappointed, but such is the problem of combining three Tintin tales into one two-hour movie. There isn't enough time to truly get to know Tintin (although a quick sweep of his European flat explains that he's solved many a mystery that winds up on the cover of international publications). The breakneck speed of the action is dizzying -- and, while not confusing, it's still a lot to take in for moviegoers who don't have the back story of Tintin's fame or reputation.
Visually, the animation far surpasses that of previous motion-capture films and is an excellent example of top-notch animated cinematography and artistry. The action sequences -- particularly those on the Unicorn -- are impressively rendered, with bodies swinging and shooting and jumping all over the screen. With his young, peppy voice, Bell hits the right note of optimism and self-confidence as the nervy Tintin. English comedians Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are perfectly cast as the bumbling look-alike Inspectors Thompson and Thomson, and Craig is appropriately evil-sounding as Sakharine and Red Rackham. And Serkis, who wowed critics as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, continues his streak as the world's most renowned motion-capture actor. Adventure-loving tweens and Tintin fans will likely adore this globe-trotting adventure, but the rest might prefer their child heroes a little more thoroughly fleshed out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Adventures of Tintin's action violence. Is all of it necessary to the story? Is it OK for movies aimed at kids to have violence? Parents should remember that even the most family-friendly movies can contain surprisingly scary elements.
How does the movie portray drinking? Are there consequences for it? Are they realistic? Is it appropriate for a character in a kids' movie to drink as often as the Captain does?
For those familiar with the comic books -- how does the movie compare? Are the characters depicted as you expected from following Tintin's adventures in print?
- In theaters: December 21, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: March 13, 2012
- Cast: Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Simon Pegg
- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Pirates
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.