Blistering Barnacles!

Steven Spielberg brings boy reporter to life in 'The Adventures of Tintin'

The worst thing to be said about The Adventures of Tintin is that Andy Serkis’ voice isn’t quite what elder ex-kids associate with Captain Archibald Haddock. Paul Frees dubbed the voice of that bibulous captain when the French TV series of the 1950s came to the United States, and his saltwater baritone is distinctive in the memory with a catarrh-rich raspiness, a throat-clearing “arrrr,” possibly the result of too much exposure to fog or grog.

Apart from this quibble, everything is terrific. John Williams’ small-scale jazz theme accompanies Saul Bass–style silhouette animation of Hergé’s characters during the titles, then comes the motion-capture animation; justly maligned for its essential wigginess, the technique works here delightfully.

Jamie Bell voices the famed cub reporter with the frontal cowlick. At the flea market, Tintin purchases a model of the famous man-of-war of 1676, the HMS Unicorn. The purchase turns out to be hazardous. Tintin’s wallet is pinched by a pickpocket, and he’s menaced by a needle-nosed Russian named Ivan Sakharine (Daniel Craig).

Soon, Tintin discovers a secret message inside the ship model, and the ball begins rolling. Tintin is knocked out and shanghaied aboard a rusty freighter. Haddock, Tintin and dog Snowy survive an open-boat ordeal, a plane crash and a desert crossing. The seas get heavy, the sky is afire with lightning, trussed cannons slam across the decks. The action comes to a carnival finale involving a trained falcon and an out-of-control motorcycle.

If Tintin as a character is undynamic, he’s at least the steadfast center of a world of peculiar men and uncanny adventure. Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson have made this holiday film much in the mood of the comics, and yet without stodginess. Suffused with antique charm, The Adventures of Tintin is also a really ripping yarn.

‘The Adventures of Tintin’ is in wide release.