Andy Serkis and Jamie Bell in "The Adventures of Tintin"...

Andy Serkis and Jamie Bell in "The Adventures of Tintin" from Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures in association with Hemisphere Media Capital. Credit: WETA Digital Ltd.

Nervous? Edgy? Suspicious that technological tyranny has taken over the multiplex? It's not just moviegoer paranoia talking, especially with the release of "The Adventures of Tintin," a frenetic bonbon with an empty center, and a movie made without any perceivable audience outside of filmmakers besotted by their own innovative processes. Shot in 3-D, and motion-capture (think "The Polar Express," if a little less creepy), "Tintin" is as inspired by computer graphics as it is by Belgian artist Hegre's revered comic books. It's also an indication of what can go wrong when old boys get new toys.

In one sense, the long-awaited "Tintin" -- in which the intrepid boy journalist (voice of Jamie Bell) trips around the globe in search of lost treasure, aided by his equally plucky dog, Snowy -- marks a dramatic departure for director Steven Spielberg and his henchman-producer, Peter Jackson.

Like 3-D for Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), time travel for Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris") and biography for David Cronenberg ("A Dangerous Method"), animation seems like fresh territory for Spielberg. But like his aforementioned colleagues, it turns out to be just another means of exploring old obsessions (i.e., family for Scorsese, neuroses for Allen, aberrant psychology for Cronenberg). Spielberg's great "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was an attempt to animate a comic book and make the '30s-era adventure serial into state-of-the-art cinema; "Tintin," originally a comic book, has the same basic motivations, without the humanity -- or, for that matter, anything remotely fresh.

Yes, the camera behind "Tintin" makes the rather insistent statement that what you're seeing could never have been accomplished with humans. But it's hard to imagine a movie with humans being this tiresome -- or depressing -- in its failure to generate magic. By the way, there are no female characters in "Tintin," save for an opera singer who's at the center of a very elaborate slapstick routine that might have worked in a '30s Warner cartoon. If you're already receiving Social Security, it might make you feel nostalgic.


PLOT A model ship and three mysterious messages spark a globe-trotting adventure for our resourceful young journalist, his dog and an alcoholic ship's captain. RATING PG

CAST Voices of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig


PLAYING AT Area theaters

BOTTOM LINE Technically impressive, dramatically inert.

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