Movie Review: Hugo

Movie Review: Hugo



PG for mild thematic material, some action and peril and smoking.
Genre: Drama, adaptation, family.
Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes

A young orphan living in a Paris train station uncovers a mystery that jeopardizes his secretive way of life. Hugo learned to fix clocks and other gadgets from his father and uncle which he now puts to use keeping the train station clocks running. The only thing he has left connecting him to his dead father is an automaton – mechanical man – that doesn’t work without a special key which Hugo needs to find to unlock the secret he believes it contains.

Winner of Five Academy Awards

Hugo is an amazing movie knitting together both fact and fiction in a very imaginative way. This Academy Award winning movie is now on DVD and it is gaining steam in the viewership world. For its debut weekend Hugo was only on slightly more than 1,200 screens. But, for a November release and even though it was a limited release, it still grabbed the number five spot on the box office list pulling in slightly more than $11 million dollars. To date this Martin Scorsese movie has made close to $74 million dollars.

Georges Méliès (1861-1938), French filmmaker a...

Georges Méliès (1861-1938), French filmmaker and cinematographer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The movie Hugo is based on the fiction book entitled The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The primary inspiration for the book – and of course now the movie – is the true story of turn-of-the-century French pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies, his surviving films and his collection of mechanical wind-up figures called automata. By the end of his life Melies was broke even as his films were screening widely in the United States. In the movie Hugo – just as in real life – Melies finished out his life working in a toy booth in a Paris subway station.

This was another one of those movies that pretty much flew under the radar when it was first released. Of course adding to the lack-luster start of Hugo – even though it did grab the number five spot on the box office for its opening weekend – is the fact that it opened in limited release. While it did open to much fanfare from the Hollywood elite, all too often such fanfare is ignored due to the simple fact they always seem to have some kind of a left-leaning agenda.

In other words, many limited release movies with a big Hollywood push are best worth ignoring.

Adding to an initial distaste to seeing this movie also revolved around the fact that it was a November release. That screamed of nothing more than another Hollywood elite move to get Hugo into the mix for the annual award show bonanza in the new year. Of course the movie did not disappoint when it comes to the area of awards – and – now that I’ve seen the movie for myself it does not disappoint in the viewing category either.

Not Meant To Be An “Edge-Of-Your-Seater”

Clocking in at better than two hours Hugo does get off to a slow start. The opening scenes make for a long set up even before the opening credits roll. But, even though it seems like extra baggage for the movie, it is needed in order to set up the rest of the flick. However, I must admit when the opening credits did begin rolling I wondered aloud – “How will I make it through two hours of this?” Even as the movie winds it’s way through the many sub-plots, keep in mind Hugo is not meant to be an edge-of-your-seat experience. Instead, the attention to detail and the vividness of the cinematography is the most eye-catching portion of this movie.

From an acting standpoint – once again it’s worth pointing out – Hugo is by no means a movie where the performances will jump off the screen. Instead the entire movie has a laid back feeling to it. Even the scenes where the young child actors go on various adventures, there’s still a lack-luster type feel to the movie. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Instead, just keep in mind if you’re looking for abounding action, you will not find it. Asa Butterfield who plays the main character of Hugo does a good job, but at times it’s like watching another version of Oliver Twist. Instead of being on the streets of London, this Oliver Twist takes place in a Paris train station.

The stand out actor in this movie is none other than Ben Kingsley. His portrayal of the French pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies is outstanding. Of course Kingsley has a long line of incredible performances behind him. His ability to transform himself into the various characters he plays is amazing and he does not disappoint in Hugo.

The surprising aspect of Hugo actually revolves around the attention to detail about the life of Melies and the under current message of “purpose and destiny”. The combination of the two makes Hugo a winner of a movie. With a PG rating we are calling Hugo family friendly. But keep in mind this might be better watched first as parents and then watch it again with your kids. That way you can help guide them through some of the slower parts and encourage them to watch for the historical aspects of the movie as well as the wonderful message.

Enjoy the show!

Dr. Rus

About the Author

Dr. Rus has 30+ years experience in the field of communication. He takes this experience, and his passion to encourage others to positively effect their environment, when providing insight and movie reviews.