Films with children in the lead roles are often pitched at little kids. Parents lumber into the cinema hoping the film won’t cause their kids or themselves brain damage. Over the years there have been kiddie flicks that have flown right over the little ones heads and hit the adults head on. On the animated side examples include Pixar creations ‘Wal-E’ and ‘Up’. Recent live-action examples include ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and now the new Martin Scorsese film ‘Hugo’.
Set in 1930s Paris, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station tending to the many wind up clocks. Hugo inherits a robotic like device called an automaton that he hopes will answer the mystery of his father’s death once repaired. He turns to a toy shop owner George Méliès (Ben Kingsley) to help fix the automaton.
Scorsese has created a beautiful film that explores the magic of filmmaking. ‘Hugo’ is Scorsese’s way of laying out the things that inspired him to become a director. Every scene is full of references to the early days of cinema that harks back to the days of the Lumière brothers. Scorsese reminds us of the pure joy of seeing a film for the first time and the power it has as a storytelling tool. It also sends a clear message out to other filmmakers; it’s a privilege to make films, get creative and don’t screw it up. A very apt message when so many big effects blockbusters are missing some of that movie magic.
Scorsese’s direction is fantastic and the 3D is the best I’ve seen since ‘Avatar’. You feel like you’re inside the film and it’s a joy to explore the ins-and-outs of the French train station. The sets are a work of art and the recreation of 1930s Paris adds several layers of charm to the film.
The story takes a while to get started and the first half of ‘Hugo’ is a slog but you need to be patient. As the mystery of the film unfolds the revelations are a pleasant surprise and film history buffs may be reduced to tears. I was quite gob-smacked by the finale that made me question the films standing as a kid’s flick. If any parents take their children along and they have a full understanding of the entire plot, I would suggest enrolling them in MENSA. If you’ve got a little Rodger Ebert walking around at your place ‘Hugo’ is the film for him but it leans on the side of adults heavily.
Kingsley puts in a wonderful performance and the child actors Butterfield and Chloe Moretz are great. Sacha Baron Cohen provides good comic relief and there are nice appearances from Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer and Richard Griffiths.
If you’ve become a little cynical about going to movies due to inflated ticket prices, Michael Bay films and chatty audiences, ‘Hugo’ may restore your faith in the wonder of cinema.
‘Hugo’ is now showing.
The Popcorn Junkie