I think Hugo is a movie that will be as misunderstood as it will be admired (truth be told, I’m still sifting through some of it myself), but there’s no questioning just how impressive this family feature is. A little dash of charm and a whole lot of magic (most of it visual) brings Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret to vivid, eye-popping life.
Maybe because Hugo is directed by Martin Scorcese it brings an even deeper layer of curiosity and questions to the proceedings. After all, this is a guy who doesn’t traditionally dabble in PG fare; if it doesn’t have Leo DiCaprio somewhere in the cast or DeNiro stomping on someone’s rib cage, it probably doesn’t have Scorcese’s name attached to it. Yet, the veteran filmmaker delivers a stunningly beautiful finished project and when you get to the heart of Hugo, it’s easy to see why — this story is about the love of cinema.
Combining computer effects with a gigantic manmade set, Scorcese’s vision is both original and impressive. Set in early 1900s Paris, the tale follows an orphan (Asa Butterfield) who takes care of the clocks in a Paris train station. He steals food, is constantly evading the station attendant (Sacha Baron Cohen), tiptoes around a cranky shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley) and spends off hours attempting to repair the passion of his dead father (Jude Law), a broken mechanical man who is missing a few gears.
But above all else, Hugo loves going to the movies. He sneaks a chum into the Harold Lloyd classic, Safety Last, in which the silent film legend dangles dangerously from a clock high above the streets. I know I’ve seen clips of the classic numerous times, but never have I felt such an appreciation for it than I did here. And with innocent wonder, Hugo’s passion for movies helps unfold a few secrets and — yes, you’ve got it — more than a little magic.
Again, not everyone will love Hugo. It’s not as simplistic and by-the-numbers as standard family fare and maybe not as lively and fun, but it truly is one to appreciate. And for bonus points, it does something with 3-D that few films have — it’s an asset.
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give Hugo a three and a half. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.
Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.