Scorcese’s 2011 Family Film Hugo: A Movie Review
If there was ever a movie that solidified Martin Scorcese’s love of filmmaking, Hugo is that film. Hugo stars unknown Asa Butterfield as the titular hero, an orphan boy living in a clock tower in the dream-like animated city of Paris. When Hugo’s father (Jude Law) dies tragically, he leaves behind an unfinished automaton – a mechanical robot – with a potentially important message. Hugo’s life’s mission is to complete the robot and uncover the message.
Hugo, the movie, is attractive to look at. Scorcese captures an animated Paris and bustling travel center complete with all the towns’ denizens. There is a security guard/station inspector (Bruno’s Sacha Baron Cohen), whom Hugo has to dodge at all costs or fear the repurcussions of being sent back to an orphanage. There is a toy shopkeeper with a mysterious past named Georges (The Wackness’ Ben Kingsley) and his niece Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), who seeks and finds adventure with Hugo. All the requisite characters are in place for hijinx and wonder.
The story centers on Hugo, Georges and the automaton. What unravels is a unique film that remains interesting, but slow for a kids/family film. The pacing hinders the film from being more raucous and fun, focusing instead more on story and dream fulfillment. The acting and directing are excellent. There is little point in discussing the plot, as with a kid’s film it is easy enough to discern how things work out in the end.
Director Martin Scorcese Clearly Loves Movies and Hugo Proves That
What shines through is Scorcese’s love for film and his fable for following your dreams. It’s a common theme in kids films, though this one seems to have been caught a bit between pleasing adult audiences and kids, which is where it struggles to find a perfect balance. It is understandable why the Academy loved the film, bestowing it with 5 Oscars, but equally understandable why it failed to break through with audiences, crafting a middling $67 million in the U.S. to this point off an estimated $170 million budget.
Hugo is one of the top films of the year and the craftsmanship of the film is evident. What lacks is any true surprise or child escapism, since the story has an almost adult theme bubbling underneath the surface. For those expecting a ride like in Finding Nemo, you’ll be disappointed. For those familiar with Scorcese’s adult fare (The Departed) and wondering what else he can do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.