“Tintin” and other Christmastime movie reviews

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“The Adventures of Tintin” is A-1 family entertainment

By Adam Shaw

Catholic News Service

“Great snakes!” The characteristic exclamation of the titular hero of “The Adventures of Tintin” may also be the cry of surprised audience members taken aback both by the high-quality animation, and the exhilarating plot, of what might otherwise have turned out to be yet another chapter in mediocre translations from page to reel. Parents as well will nod appreciatively at the messages of self-sacrifice, friendship and determination on offer.

This is not the first time the characters drawn by Belgian illustrator Herge (real name Georges Remi), and first published in the Belgian Catholic newspaper “Le Vingtieme Siecle” in 1929, have been featured in motion — a highly successful TV series spawned from the books ran on HBO during the early 1990’s. But it is the first time the curiously coiffed reporter known as Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) and his terrier sidekick Snowy have made it to the big screen.

Captain Haddock, voiced by Andy Serkis, and Tintin, voiced by Jamie Bell, are seen in the animated movie "The Adventures of Tintin." The Catholic News Service classification is A-I –- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG –- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (CNS photo/Sony)

Directed by Steven Spielberg from a script by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish — and co-produced by the illustrious Peter Jackson of “Lord of the Rings” fame — the film manages to combine an original vision with faithfulness to the enormously popular source material.

Our chipper junior journalist finds himself drawn into a centuries-old mystery via the purchase of a hobby model ship, and consequently marked for elimination by deliciously evil villain Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (voice of Daniel Craig). Aiding Tintin, as best he can, is excessively tippling Scottish seaman Captain Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis). A kindly lost soul searching for redemption at the bottom of a whisky bottle, Haddock’s ancestors and family destiny are bound up with the miniature vessel.

Haddock’s quest for renewal is a central and consistent theme, and the film highlights the vital role of companionship in overcoming one’s individual weaknesses. The need for fortitude in the face of difficulty is also exemplified. These lessons will likely please both parents and viewers of faith.

The project is ambitious, and makes the most of the latest in performance-capture technology — a technique that transposes the facial and bodily movements of the actors onto their animated counterparts — as well as top-flight 3-D rendering, Mix in a thrilling score by cinema maestro John Williams, and the result is a sumptuous visual and aural feast that takes the viewer on an action-packed adventure from Tintin’s humble home in a retro (yet timeless) Belgium to the beauteous deserts of North Africa.

There are a few instances of fist fighting and nongraphic gunplay. And in one scene a ship’s crew are bound and made to walk the plank. But the movie is, by and large, a family-friendly affair, which will not only afford vigilant moms and dads a chance to relax, but the opportunity to be entertained as well.

The film contains occasional stylized violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Capsule reviews by Catholic News Service of more holiday films

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (O, R)

This piercingly violent and sordid crime thriller, based on the first book in Swedish writer Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy,” follows a journalist (Daniel Craig) and a talented computer hacker (Rooney Mara) as they investigate a wealthy clan’s role in the murder of a female member of the family 40 years prior. Director David Fincher’s unflinching adaptation is faithful to the often disturbing source material, which includes scenes of heinous physical abuse. Although skillfully — if exhaustingly — executed, his film portrays a world seemingly devoid of moral coordinates. The transgressions endured by the title character, and the choices she makes in response, both undermine her quest for justice and render the proceedings inappropriate for all. Excessively graphic violence, including rape, torture and maiming; images of women sadistically murdered; antireligious undertones; strong sexual content, including explicit lesbian and nonmarital encounters and frequent nudity; and much crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. ”

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (A-1, G)

This weak, slapstick-laden — but not unwholesome — third entry in the Chipmunks series has the titular rodent rap stars (voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney) and their distaff counterparts the Chipettes (voices of Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate) misbehaving on a cruise ship and winding up on a remote Caribbean island, where they help another castaway (Jenny Slate) and learn some lessons in maturity and responsibility. As he blends animation and live action, director Mike Mitchell piles on the pratfalls — along with references to other similarly themed media offerings, from the TV show “Lost” to Tom Hanks’ 2000 big-screen drama “Cast Away.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G — general audiences. All ages admitted.

Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol

(A-III, PG-13)

This dizzying roller-coaster ride of an espionage thriller propels viewers from the depths of urban sewers to the top of the world’s tallest building, and throws in outer space for good measure. The leader (Tom Cruise) of a team of agents for the elite Impossible Missions Force is framed for a terrorist bombing of the Kremlin. Driven underground, and pursued by the Russian police, his associates (most prominently Paula Patton and Simon Pegg) join him in the struggle to stop the actual bomber (Michael Nyqvist) before he can unleash global nuclear war, an effort in which they’re eventually joined by another operative (Jeremy Renner), whose motives are not entirely clear. In his live-action debut, established animation director Brad Bird oversees spectacular cinematography (especially in Imax), with the camera swooping and soaring with each death-defying stunt. Intense action violence, including gunplay, some rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

(A-III, PG-13)

Sprawling, brawling adventure sequel — set in 1891 — in which Robert Downey Jr.’s he-man Holmes and his recently wed sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) battle a conspiracy by evil genius Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) to destabilize European politics and bring on a general war. The iconic pair is aided in their struggle by a Gypsy fortuneteller (Noomi Rapace) and by Holmes’ bon vivant older brother (Stephen Fry). Director Guy Ritchie’s second take on the classic detective fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle downplays old-fashioned sleuthing in favor of a constant flow of confrontations, escapades and escapes. Still, adults with a high degree of tolerance for stylized violence will likely find the proceedings diverting enough. Constant action violence, including a suicide, torture and some glimpses of gore; partial rear and implied full nudity; fleeting sexual humor; and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.