I'm not sure if a lot of fans out there were clamoring for a Martin Scorsese kids movie, but I know I was. About a decade ago, waaaay back when I was in college, there was an internet rumor that Scorsese was interested in directing the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This was years before the Tim Burton debacle that eventually happened. I just really like it when great directors known for more adult subject matter make movies for children, because they make them with the same degree of sophistication that they give any of their films.
Hugo is not only a wonderful, magical children's adventure set in 1920's Paris, it's also a loving ode to the dawn of cinema and the ability of movies to transport you into your dreams. Figuratively speaking, of course, we're not talking a Last Action Hero golden ticket scenario. It stars young Asa Butterfield in the title role, Hugo Cabret an orphaned son of a clockmaker who lives inside the walls of the train station in Paris, keeping the clocks running, unbeknownst to anyone. In his spare time, Hugo is trying to repair an old automaton that his father found at a museum, stealing parts from an old toymaker with a shop in the station. When Hugo is caught by the toymaker, his whole life is upturned, and he begins a journey, uncovering the toymaker's mysterious past while finding his own purpose in life in the process.
I'm not going to go into what Hugo discovers, and how it ties in with cinema, because that was all part of the magic of the movie. I loved how magical the movie felt, even though there was actually very few truly fantastical elements. Pretty much only the clockwork automaton.
The performances are all around wonderful. Asa Butterfield was great, as was Chloe Grace Moretz as the toymaker's God-daughter. Sacha Baron-Cohen continues to show his versatility and his prowess for physical comedy as the station's orphan hunting inspector. I wouldn't be surprised if Sir Ben Kingsley gets a Supporting Actor nomination for his part as Papa Georges, the toymaker.
I saw Hugo in 3-D, something I don't usually do. I was very curious to see how Scorsese utilized the 3-D technology as a tool. Unsurprisingly, it's among the best 3-D I've seen. But I learned something that I kind of already knew while watching it: As well done as it was, even the best 3-D doesn't look half as good as a 2-D movie. As deep and immersive as the experience was, I feel it would have been even more so in 2-D, without the darkened tint on the glasses and the eyestrain and the blur.
Hugo is based on a novel, called The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I suppose the studio that made the movie shortened the title in a desperate bid to make the title more memorable and hence more marketable. Or maybe they thought people would pronounce Cabret with a T instead of the French way. But in shortening it they drained all the magic and wonder from the title. Hugo gives the viewer no indication what they're going to see. Disney is doing the same thing with net year's John Carter (or JC as they like to shorten it). Hey Disney! The John Carter part isn't what interests us! It's the "OF MARS" part we want. Look at Hugo's opening weekend box office. Shortening the title didn't work.
Ok, enough ranting. Hugo is a movie that any film buff should go and see. Martin Scorsese clearly has put as much love and passion into it as anything he's ever done, if not more in some cases. I'm not sure if all kids would find it too interesting, but if you take the right kid to see it, you might just be setting them on a path to find their own love of cinema.