‘Hugo’ couldn’t be a more difficult film to review. While I personally enjoyed all 127 3D minutes of it, I know that a lot of people won’t. More importantly, I can tell you about all of the things in the movie that don’t work, filmmaking-wise. But in doing so, I’d spoil a large amount of the story. Normally, I’d just write, “If this sort of thing bothers you, then you the movie is not for you.” With ‘Hugo’, that’s impossible. This sort of conundrum doesn’t occur frequently, so I’ll keep things vague for your sake.
Young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lost his father (Jude Law) in a terrible museum fire. His drunk and neglectful uncle brings the boy to the huge train station in downtown Paris to live, then teaches him to fix the many clocks there, and to keep them constantly running. The only objects that Hugo owns are reminders of his father: a broken, rusty automaton and a notebook with to-do items that will get the writing automaton functioning again. His sad life is further crushed when an angry old toymaker (Ben Kingsley) steals Hugo’s notebook. But that turns out to be the catalyst that causes Hugo to make his first real friend, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), and sends the two of them off on an unpredictable adventure. Along the way, we meet interesting and fun side characters who work at the station and add tension, excitement and fun to the story. The most prominent of these is Sacha Baron Cohen as the child-hating security guard who delights in throwing thieving children into the orphanage.
The episodic story of ‘Hugo’ jumps around, which might lose some of the audience. I assure you that by the end, all the storylines wrap up together, and we wind up in a place that none of us could have predicted. The road that we’re taken down is filled with magic and childlike wonder. From Martin Scorsese, it’s no surprise that the movie is filled with stories of old films and the previous lack of film preservation. It reminds us of the filmmaking roots that paved the way for cinema to be what it is today. ‘Hugo’ is an odd movie, but one that must be seen to know if you’ll like it or not.
While I’m not usually a fan of 3D, Scorsese uses it in a fashion reminiscent of the way that moving images were first put on screen. He knows the limits of 3D, and uses it to parallel the film origins taking place within the story. I don’t believe the 3D to be necessary, but it just might win over some folks who are on the fence about it.
Be warned that ‘Hugo’ is not a fast-paced, silly flick that you’ll want to bring young children to. It’s artistic and slow, made more for older children than young ones. Had I taken my 4-year-old to the ‘Hugo’ screening, she would have been restless. I suggest ages 10 and up. Because I believe ‘Hugo’ will be a polarizing film, I hope you’ll see it this week and post your thoughts here. I look forward to knowing how the world sees ‘Hugo.’