The First World War is the subject of a new Steven Spielberg movie. "War Horse" opens Christmas Day. It's based on a children's book. A second Spielberg movie also comes from children's literature. "The Adventures of Tintin" is inspired by a Belgian comic book character. Tintin stories have sold hundreds of millions of copies in dozens of languages. Film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Tintin is a crime-fighting boy journalist who specializes in solving riddles with the assistance of his intrepid dog, Snowy. Here, he gets involved in a tale of derring-do in distant lands that revolves around hidden treasure and a secret scroll that Tintin has and the bad guys want.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as character) Have you found it?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (as character) He doesn't have it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (as character) Nobody, boss. He's not here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Not here? Then where is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Where's what?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A piece of paper like this.

TURAN: These adventures are presented in an up-to-the-minute combination of 3-D computer animation and performance-capture technology. This complicated process is overseen by a pair of filmmakers, Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson, who've always kept their inner child close at hand.

These technologies prove to be just the ticket for Tintin's exploits. They create a good-humored, high-spirited world that is delicately poised, just as it should be, halfway between the cartoon and the real. And they mimic the elegant visual detail and vibrant color that generations of readers have fallen in love with in the original stories. Performance capture has also done surprisingly well with Tintin's actors. Jamie Bell plays the young journalist, and performance-capture veteran Andy Serkis co-stars as Tintin's unlikely ally, the inebriated old sea dog Captain Archibald Haddock.


JAIME BELL: (as Tintin) You wouldn't happen to be related to the Haddocks of Marlin Spike Hall, would you?

ANDY SERKIS: (as Captain Haddock) What are you asking me?

BELL: (as Tintin) That's the story I've been working on.

TURAN: What makes "The Adventures of Tintin" special is the seamless way it combines innocent wonder with the most worldly and sophisticated technology. That makes for scenes and camera movements which don't look like they'd be possible in the real world. No one does this kind of thing better than Steven Spielberg, and the child in us all couldn't be more pleased.


WERTHEIMER: Ken Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.



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