Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Ben Kingsley
There have been a few movies that are about a child (or children) but aren't necessarily meant for a young audience. Where the Wild Things Are comes to mind. While some of the content (wild monsters causing a ruckus) would be entertaining, there are too many themes that go over most kids' heads. Hugo is much the same. While beautiful and fantastical, a lot of it will go right over a kid's head.
So onto the movie itself. It really is a special film and I'm actually glad I saw it in 3D. I have many opinions about 3D and won't bother you with them here. Suffice it to say, I agree to it in rare situations and this was one of those situations. It was used well, though I wasn't happy to shell out the extra $4.
Based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik, Hugo is a movie about an orphaned boy living and working in a busy Paris train station in the 1930s. Young Hugo (played by the incredible Asa Butterfield) lived with his drunk uncle who was the person responsible for maintaining the
clocks in the train station. The uncle has been missing for quite a while but because Hugo has a knack for all things mechanical, like his dad, he's been keeping up the work without anyone in the station knowing. Hugo befriends a girl named Isabel (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) who loves reading and craves adventure. Her godfather, Papa Georges (played wonderfully by Ben Kingsley) works in the toy shop at the train station and only knows Hugo to be thief. Hugo has been stealing toys from the shop for their parts. His father, who had been a clockmaker, found an automaton in the museum in which he worked. Before he died, he and Hugo worked on the automaton in hopes of restoring it. Hugo's father dies and the only thing Hugo has held onto is that automaton. It's Hugo's only wish to see it working again and he needs the mechanical parts from those toys. Isabel has the key to get the automaton to work and it draws a still from a famous Georges Melies film. The two kids know that's too much of a coincidence so they decide to investigate. As it turns out, Papa Georges is the famous Georges Melies who gave up his dreams of cinema years earlier being badly hurt from a lack of interest in his work. Not only that but the automaton was Georges's creation. Awwww!
The movie, though slow at times and incredibly long (127 minutes), ended up being a beautiful journey through a history of early film. You see, this is a passion project for director, Martin Scorsese. Scorsese, amongst others, founded the World Cinema Foundation, an organization that works to preserve and restore films. You've probably seen their commercials before your recent rental. In Hugo, and reportedly this is a true fact, Melies had to sell many of his films and some were melted down to make a chemical used in shoe heels. It's really sad to think that early films, which are a huge part of our history, are just gone. I'm not shilling for his foundation but I do see the need to make sure more movies aren't lost.
I really loved this movie but I think a lot of it is because of how I identify with Hugo. No, I don't live inside the walls of a train station but I know what it's like to feel like you aren't quite living up to your potential. Anywhoodle, the acting was fantastic. It was fun to see Sacha Baron Cohen reigned in. We're so used to his over-the-top characters that it's nice to see the guy can hold his own in a movie with a powerhouse like Kingsley. Speaking of, Kingsley was so great in this. There have been times where I've wondered why he's taken a part (ahem, The Love Guru) but not this time. Plus it helps that he actually looks like Melies. Asa Butterfield, the actor playing Hugo, had some truly great moments in this film and didn't overact like his counterpart, Moretz does at times. Don't get me wrong...I LOVED LOVED LOVED the girl in Kick Ass and think she's incredibly talented but at times in Hugo you could see that she was trying really hard to do well. Butterfield's ability is effortless and I can't wait to see more work from him. Holy crap! I just looked up his resume on IMDB and realized he was in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Yeah, if you want proof of his talent just watch that.
As for the directing, this is quite a departure for Scorsese but just as well done as his grittier movies. The cinematography was stunning and I can't quite tell you how pretty it was. The stills from it don't quite do it justice either. Seeing in on the big screen does though so I highly encourage people to see it but take your kids to The Muppets or Arthur Christmas.
To read a review rooted in a bit more reality, check out what Tracy had to say over at examiner.com.