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June 29, 2017

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The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (丁丁歷險記)

Some viewers may see it as a "plasticky" halfway house between live action and animation, but Spielberg uses it to create some exhilarating action sequences, including a madcap motorcycle chase through a Moroccan souk. The European detail of vintage automobiles, dusty shops and rain-slicked cobblestones is lovingly rendered, and there are moments of wit and visual surrealism to please adults as well as children.

The technology's slick superficiality is not so good at capturing emotion, despite the best efforts of a largely British cast. Bell's Tintin is almost as flat as his pen-and-ink forebear. Bumbling bowler-hatted detectives Thomson and Thompson are played by frequent collaborators Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, but little of the pair's comic rapport comes through.

Only Serkis (the performance-capture Olivier, veteran of the technique from "The Lord of the Rings," ''King Kong" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes") transcends the limitations of the form. He wrings blood, bile, laughter and tears from the soused Haddock, whose alcoholism is somewhat uneasily played for both laughs and pathos.

The film ends on a note that makes a sequel — which Jackson is lined up to direct — a near certainty, and a third film is planned if all goes well.

Will the movie please all Tintin fans? Probably not. The script by Britons Steven Moffat, Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright has taken enough liberties with Herge's plots and characters to infuriate purists. But it has a light touch, a brisk pace and considerable charm, perfect family fare for casual viewers. ■

► Directed by Steven Spielberg / With the voices of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Cary Elwes and Simon Pegg / Animation / USA / 2011 / 107 min. / Rated PG for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking / English with Chinese subtitles / ★★★★☆ / To be released on Nov. 11

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