Thursday Trailer Face-Off! The Muppets vs. The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

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Published May 26, 2011

 

 

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Muppets vs. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, two big-budget, high-stakes, holiday-season adaptations of beloved children’s properties.

 

 

 

 

 

PremiseThe Muppets and The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn are both based on pre-existing properties: Jim Henson’s Muppet characters (now owned by Disney) and the artist Hergé’s Tintin comic-book series, respectively. The Muppets tells a new story with the old characters. Per its official summary: “On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, US, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit the Frog reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate.” Awesome! As for Tintin, it’s based on three of Hergé’s stories: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure. They’re all great stories, and full of adventure (drug cartels! kleptomaniacs! treasure hunts! Captain Haddock!), but we’re a little worried it’s a lot for one movie, and that there won’t be enough elements original to the movie that hardcore Tintin fans won’t just be bored. And you have to give The Muppets points for imagination: they’ve created a world in which French Vogue has a plus-size fashion editor! (Extra points for Piggy’s bangs.) Advantage: The Muppets

Cast The Adventures of Tintin stars bona fide cutie pie Jamie Bell in the title role; The Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis plays Captain Haddock. Shaun of the Dead‘s Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play bumbling detectives; Daniel Craig plays Red Rackham; and Cary Elwes figures in, too. Impressive! Star-wise, we think they’re about matched by The Muppets‘ major players: Segel, Adams, Cooper, and Rashida Jones. But we mustn’t forget that every Muppet movie features an inspired celebrity cameo or 30, and this one is no exception. We won’t ruin too many of them for you, but we will say we’re really looking forward to seeing how The Muppets will fit French Stewart and Dave Grohl into a single movie! Advantage: The Muppets

Director The Muppets was directed by James Bobin, who won a BAFTA for his work directing and writing Da Ali G Show. He also co-created the loopy Flight of the Conchords with Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement. He’s been nominated for 11 Emmys! He would easily win this category if he were up against someone else. But The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn was directed by Steven Spielberg. Automatic win. Advantage: The Adventures of Tintin

Writers The Muppets‘ screenplay was co-written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, who together brought the world Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Stoller’s also written Yes Man and Get Him to the Greek. In Tintin‘s corner, we’ve got Steven Moffat, seasoned writer for British TV shows underappreciated in the US (Doctor Who, Coupling); Edgar Wright, who’s written and directed movies including Hot Fuzz and The Adventures of Scott Pilgrim; and Joe Cornish, who appears to be part of popular(?) British comedy duo Adam and Joe. Though we love Segel, Stoller loses this category because of the biggest blemish on his résumé: Gulliver’s Travels. Oops. Advantage: The Adventures of Tintin

Innovation Tintin uses some pretty groundbreaking technology: motion-capture 3D animation, which is very you-are-there sci-fi stuff! It’s impressive. But we also can’t help but feel this whole trailer is sitting right in the middle of the Uncanny Valley: witness the way the two detectives’ eyes move behind their newspapers around 0:30, for example, and then tell us you didn’t feel a frisson up your spine (in a bad way). By contrast, The Muppets‘ trailer’s innovation lies in subverting the medium: the kind of thing every English major is trained to think is awesome. (And we do!) We only wish we’d first seen this trailer in theaters, when we wouldn’t have known what it was for and would’ve been totally fooled by its false romantic-comedy start. Advantage: The Muppets

Music The Muppets features music by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie (hm, wonder how they got him!), whose zany, folksy compositions will probably be a perfect match for the tone of the film. But the chips in this category are destined to fall the same way they did for the Director category: we have to give it to Tintin‘s John Williams, who has been nominated for 45 Oscars. 45! We’d be lucky to be nominated for one Oscar! Advantage: The Adventures of Tintin

Cute!Pretty much everything about The Muppets trailer is cute: Amy Adams’ kindergarteners, her outfits, Jason Segel’s haircut, the fact that they reserve a hotel room with two twin beds, the way the narrator’s voice stammers a little on “Kermit… the Frog?,” the dance routine, Muppets in general. And although the cutest thing about the Tintin trailer is, indeed, very cute—Tintin’s trusty fox terrier, Snowy, hiding his head under his paw at 0:22, a canine gesture that will always melt the five layers of ice around our critical hearts—it’s not enough to compete. Advantage: The Muppets

The Verdict Thankfully, the movies come out a month apart (Muppets on November 23; Tintin on December 23), so we’ll have time to refill our nostalgia tanks between the two and will probably end up seeing both. But if we had to say which one we’re more excited about—let us just repeat that in The Muppets, Miss Piggy is French Vogue‘s plus-size fashion editor. Please, please, please, God, let this mean there’s a Devil Wears Prada Muppet send-up happening. Please! Winner: The Muppets