Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Adventure, Family, Drama
Opens locally Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
Run Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes, Rated PG
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee
Based on the book "The Invention of Huge Cabret" by Brian Selznick
Directed by Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island, The Departed, Goodfellas)
For legendary director Martin Scorsese, "Hugo" must have been a dream come true. Scorsese is not just a director, he's a film historian, and "Hugo" is a sly film history lesson wrapped up and packaged in the latest that technology has to offer. The end result is a fun and adventurous tale about a boy, his robot, and the magic of cinema.
Hugo Cabret (Butterfield) is an orphan boy who lives within the walls of a train station, set in 1930s Paris, France. His late father had left him with an automaton...a small robot that he found abandoned somewhere. After his father's death, Hugo learns that he is missing a key component to make his robot work...nor does he know what to expect once it does. The machine is broken, and once it finds the key, it will have a purpose.
This also can be said for a crotchety old toy shop owner played by Ben Kingsley. Kingsley plays the real-life film legend Georges Melies, a French director and magician responsible for hundreds of early films at the turn of the century (his most famous film, "A Trip to the Moon," is credited as being the very first science-fiction movie.) This 1902 silent film featured innovative animation and special effects, and there are even color versions, where each frame of film was hand-tinted. As related to Hugo, Georges Melies is also broken, in need of something that will, metaphorically speaking, spring him back to life.
3D filmmaking has never looked so amazing. Scorsese, in this his first 3D film and first non-R-rated film in 14 years (Kundun) has created an adventure that is meant to transport and inspire the viewer, much like the very first films of yester-year. We learn in "Hugo" that the earliest motion picture was simply a train pulling into the station. Audience members sitting in the theatre actually would scream and jump out of the way, never having seen a movie before, and thinking they were in the train's path. This immersion of film is what Scorsese is going for in "Hugo," and in today's world it is nearly impossible to garner the same responses of 120 years ago...but he does capture a bit of movie-magic. It's that intangible energy that somehow engulfs you, making you truly believe that you are in another place and time. It's why I love movies.
So Hugo runs around with his pal Isabelle (Moretz), and is being chased by the train station security guard played by Borat himself, Sacha Baron Cohen, who shows off his PG-rated comedic skills. He jumps in and out of clocks, through secret passages, and down chutes. He is on an adventure to unlock the secrets of his automaton, all the while trying to unlock the secrets of Melies. This is adventure with purpose.
"Hugo" is really just a way for Scorsese to teach a new generation about the earliest days of film...and even though the movie runs on and off the track, it is so visually stunning that it keeps your interest at all times.
That being said, the first half of the film really was grinding...it isn't until the second half where "Hugo" takes off and flies.
It's worth the wait. If you see anything this weekend with your family or children...see The Muppets. And then go see Hugo immediately.
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