By G. Michael Dobbs
A pair of animated films are featured in this week's DVD review column.
Although I was certainly aware of the comic book hero Tintin, who has entertained generations in Europe, I had never read many of his adventures, so I approached the recent film adaptation cold and I left under-whelmed.
Tintin is a young reporter who, despite his youth, has proven to be a tenacious and risk-taking investigator. In this film, audiences are not only introduced to Tintin and his loyal dog Snowy, but also his bumbling police friends Thompson and Thompson as well to another character who becomes a friend and aid, Capt. Haddock.
The plot revolves around a legendary sunken treasure and a sinister plot to keep the rightful owner away from it.
The film boasts of some huge names. Steven Spielberg directed the movie and Peter Jackson produced it. Jackson's special effects company, responsible for the incredible computer animation for his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, devised a new motion capture system to provide the basis of the animation.
In 1917, animator Max Fleischer sought a cost-effective way to produce life-like animation and he created the rotoscope, a process in which footage of an actor was projected one frame at a time onto a special glass drawing board. The artist could then trace over the live action.
Motion capture is simply a 21st century updating of that process. An actor wears a special suit marked with balls that, when filmed and seen through a computer program, provides animators with a basis for realistic movements.
I don't want to characterize this method as "cheating" as far as the animation goes. The animation staff did a pretty spectacular job in realizing a 3-D near photo realistic rendition of the beloved cartoon characters.
That for me was part of the problem with the film. The cartoonist who created Tintin, Hergé, was known for his deceptively simple style. I would have much rather seen an adaptation that actually represented the graphic look that fans loved.
And I wished that Spielberg had more of feel for animation. The cop characters of Thompson and Thompson are incredibly terrible not funny in the least. The story seems like a group of action set pieces held together by too little characterization and exposition.
I actually wanted to like to film and that says a lot since I've pretty much despised every other motion capture film I've endured. While there are certainly aspects that are worth my admiration, generally "Tintin" was a case of where the potential of the source material was not properly exploited.
I'm not a big fan of the "Shrek" franchise I thought the first film was entertaining, but the subsequent ones were dreadful and I was not looking forward to see this spin-off.
I was surprised, though, how much fun it was. It's no classic for the ages, but it didn't sink like stone like "Shrek 3."
Ironically, the director for "Puss in Boots," Chris Miller, was also the director of that last "Shrek" movie.
In the fairy tale universe invented by the "Shrek" franchise, Puss in Boots is a classic rogue, romancing the ladies cats, that is making some slightly illegal coin and being an agreeable bad ass. With a voice provide by Antonio Banderas, the character is quite appealing.
The plot revolves around Puss' boyhood chum Humpty Dumpty, who is literally a bad egg. Humpty wants Puss to help him with one last heist stealing magic beans from the treacherous outlaws Jack and Jill. The egg, though, has his own agenda.
In many ways this films acts on the same level as many other classic animated shorts and features: there is material for the kids and some for the adults. The adult material is sly enough to sneak by a kid's radar.
The look of the film is impressive and the animation is quite good.
Although it is not a stunning classic in my book, I could see how people would want this for their family DVD collection. Unlike some of the other more recent animated films, repeated screenings of this film probably won't make you want to hide the disc from your kids.
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