Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Movie Review: Hugo

Based on Brian Selznick's juvenile novel, The Invention of Hugh Cabret, Hugo is a beautiful story brought to life on the big screen in a dazzling manner. Directed by Martin Scorsese, Hugo is reasonably faithful to Selznick's story of a 12 year-old orphan boy living in the Paris train station during the 1930's. Hugo (Asa Butterfield) lived with his father who was a worker at the museum repairing clocks and other mechanisms.

One day his father returns home from work with an automaton, an intricate Victorian type of robot that works using clock mechanisms. This automaton is broken and so Hugo and his father set out to repair him, keeping detailed notes in a book. But before his work is completed, Hugo's cherished father dies in a fire at the museum and he is collected by his rough uncle who is in charge of keeping the clocks in the Paris train station in working order. Devastated by his change of circumstances, Hugo cherishes the automaton, which he manages to take with him, and sets out to repair it. When his uncle disappears, Hugo continues to maintain the clocks in the station while hiding from the eccentric station master(Sacha Baron Cohen) who delights in capturing children without parents and sending them to the orphanage.

But fate steps in, in a way that Hugo could never anticipate. Partaking of petty thievery in the station, in order to obtain the parts necessary for his automaton, Hugo is caught stealing by an elderly man who runs a toy booth. He takes Hugo's father's notebook on the automaton and refuses to return it. Desperate to retrieve the last item he has of his father, Hugo follows the old man to his home where he meets Isabelle, the old man's god-daughter. Isabelle is just waiting for an adventure and she agrees to help Hugo recover his book from Papa Georges and Mama Jeanne.

Hugo tells Isabelle he needs his father's notebook back because he is repairing something. Hugo takes Isabelle to the theatre to see the movies, something her "Papa" doesn't allow her. After leaving the theatre, Hugo and Isabelle have an incident at the station and it is at this time that Hugo sees that Isabelle has something he needs - something to make his automaton finally work. This opens the door not only to an amazing adventure for Hugo and Isabelle, but also reveals a secret long kept about Papa Georges and Mama Jeanne. We learn that Papa Georges is the long forgotten but once innovative Parisian filmmaker, Georges Melies. Papa Georges career petered out after the First World War, with most of his groundbreaking films lost or sold to be melted down.

Hugo and Isabelle delve into Papa Georges life and with the help of a film researcher, Rene Tabard, help to recover his lost history.

Hugo is a breathtaking cinematic version of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, with beautiful sets that are well shown in the 3D medium. My only complaint is that the visuals are so intense, especially enhanced by the use of 3D, that the characters sometimes have a tendency to get overwhelmed. It's hard not to focus on the stunning special effects, although Asa Butterfield is certainly able to capture and hold the viewers interest. With his intense blue eyes, Butterfield is a compelling actor with an expressive face. Both Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz are engaging young actors, who were well cast for Hugo.

I also feel that although this is a kid's movie, the storyline might be a bit too complex for younger viewers - not entirely the fault of Scorsese. Selznick's books, although meant for juvenile and young teens, have detailed plots with plenty of twists. And the plot does drag a little in the middle. But overall, I felt this was an enjoyable, entertaining movie.

You can check out Brian Selznick's website about the book and the movie here.

You can watch the trailer below:

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