Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hugo - Movie Review

Anytime you see Martin Scorsese's name on a movie, you have to just kind of assume it's going to at least be a good film.  However, I was a little surprised to see he was making what appears to be a kids film.  Scorsese's movies usually involve lots of violence, craziness and death.  I went into this a little skeptical.

Hugo is based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick.  From what I hear, the movie is very faithful to the book, which is kind of odd based on how it all plays out.  I'll get to that later.

As the movie revolves around a mystery, there's only so much I'm going to be able to talk about without ruining it for you.

The story follows a boy named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who's living in a train station with his uncle.  Hugo's father, played Jude Law in what I could only call a cameo, died in a museum fire some time ago.  Hugo's uncle is a drunk and is having him take care of all of the clocks in the train station.  Hugo's entire family appeared to be watchmakers or clockmakers.

The only thing Hugo has remaining from his father is an automaton, which is basically a mechanical man that is built to perform a single function.  Hugo has been trying to repair this automaton using his father's notebook.  He hopes that once he fixes it is, it will give him some kind of message from his father.  Hugo has to steal various parts from around the train station, so he's always avoiding the station's security guard (Sacha Baron Cohen).

Eventually he's caught by a toy maker that works at the train station (Ben Kingsley), who takes Hugo's notebook.  Hugo tries desperately to get his notebook back and befriends his goddaughter (Chloe Moretz).  Together they work together to get the notebook back and try to fix the automaton.

Around the halfway point though, Hugo completely shifts into a different kind of movie.  Again, I can't say too much without spoiling the mystery and what happens.  Basically, the second half of the film becomes a love letter to old movies and the history of cinema.  It's done very lovingly and I actually found this part of the movie more interesting than the first half.

At the same time though, this is where I think the movie may lose some people.  Hugo seems to be marketed towards kids, but I don't think kids will really enjoy the second half of the film all that much.  Also, the pacing of this movie really slows in the middle, and again, I don't think it's something that many kids, or even adults, might have the attention span for.

You can kind of blame the pacing on having too many unrelated subplots.  While I didn't mind the subplots and the actors (Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer), I don't think it added all that much to the overall story.  It broke up the middle of the movie too much, where I felt like they just should have skipped all that and got on with it.  There's enough to keep track of with the main characters and the mystery they are trying to unravel.  You don't need more thrown in there to keep it interesting.    

The cinematography is beautiful and I would actually recommend seeing this in 3D.  This is one of best uses of 3D I've seen in any movie.  It really pops out at you, but not in the cheesy sense where they are just throwing things at the screen.

The performances across the board are all great.  Asa Butterfield has only been in a handful of movies, but I think he's done really well so far and I think he showed good emotional range.  Ben Kingsley is great as he always is.  There are parts in this movie where he's going to break your heart a little.  Sacha Baron Cohen is predictably the comic relief in the film, but he does a good job.  Chloe Moretz continues to be one of my favorite young actresses.  She does such a great accent in this movie, that I had to question where she was from originally.

Hugo is well made and well acted film.  I feel like it's only real flaw is the pacing in the middle.  However, it's kind of a hard movie to recommend, as it's going to mean different things to different people.  Again,  I don't think this is something that younger kids would enjoy.  Not in the theater anyway.  If you're someone that is fascinated by the history of film, then I think you really enjoy the second half of the film.

Overall, I'd say it's worth a matinee.

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