DVD Release Date: March 13, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: December 21, 2011 (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D)
Rating: PG (for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking) 
Genre: Action Adventure, Animation
Run Time: 107 min.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Actors: Voices of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones

Steven Spielberg had an amazing year in 1993. Labeled a great entertainer but not a serious filmmaker, the director delivered a landmark film with Schindler’s List, forever proving to his naysayers that he could do drama as well as anyone. And, just to remind everyone of how great a commercial director he still was, he unleashed Jurassic Park on a public that was hungry for the kind of thrills Spielberg had shown earlier in his career. The result was a double-whammy, cementing Spielberg’s reputation as one of the world’s great artists.

The final week of 2011 again brings the release of two Steven Spielberg-directed films: The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. The results are not as uniformly excellent as they were in 1993, but the double whammy of Spielberg films in the same year—indeed, in the same week—qualifies as a major event for lovers of skillful commercial filmmaking.

The closeness in release dates between the two movies also lends itself to comparisons between the two Spielberg works, so there’s no use in dancing around the discussion of which film is superior. That would be The Adventures of Tintin, a spectacular, kinetic motion picture that brings the Tintin comics of Belgian creator Hergé to eye-popping life. Based on three Tintin adventures, the film adapts the stories of the intrepid young journalist/adventurer and his dog Snowy, translating the still images of Hergé's comics into a rollicking, animated roller-coaster that feels wildly alive. The characters aren’t deep, but the movie is so filled with visual thrills and treats—and the promise of more Tintin adventures to come—that to dwell on such matters seems almost churlish. Watching The Adventures of Tintin is a blast—a hopeful sign that movies made in a spirit of fun, and without any pretense to seriousness, can still deliver a delightful experience on the big screen.

Tintin (the voice of Jamie Bell, Jane Eyre) is a young journalist who stumbles onto a big story when he buys a model ship in a bottle—just before two other men, including the villainous Sakharine (Daniel Craig, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), can lay their hands on the ship. They offer Tintin much more than he paid for the ship, alerting Tintin to the possibility that he’s just acquired something extremely valuable.

That suspicion is confirmed when Tintin’s apartment is ransacked and the ship stolen. But the crooks leave behind the most important thing: a piece of paper that had been contained in the ship’s mast. It’s a clue—one of three that, when gathered together, will lead the owner of the clues to a great treasure. But the person essential to the task of piecing the clues together, Capt. Haddock (Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), is a drunk who can’t remember the necessary details. Tintin’s major challenge throughout the film is to distract Haddock from his near constant focus on where he might find his next drink.

Haddock’s alcoholism is played for laughs—an anachronism that might not sit well with contemporary viewers. But although Haddock is the object of our laughter as he bumbles and forgets crucial information, his behavior isn’t approved. It’s Tintin who tells Haddock, “There are worse things than sobering up,” and who congratulates Haddock when he finally dries out.