We all know that Martin Scorsese is a genius behind the camera. I have been a fan of his work, literally, my whole life. I remember being "too young" to watch Goodfellas, but sneaking into the living room to watch it anyway. I was rooting for him to get his first Oscar a few years ago for The Departed, and he did just that. Now we can, fittingly, call him Academy Award winner, Martin Scorsese. The gangster genre made him famous, but I never hesitated to think he couldn't handle a family film. I was so confident in Mr. Scorsese I even watched it in 3D.
Hugo is a film about an orphan boy, played by Asa Butterfield, living in a train station in France. He meets a toy maker Georges (Ben Kingsley) and his God daughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). An adventure ensues between Hugo and his young friend; all the while avoiding the train station manager (Sacha Baron Cohen) who threatens to toss back in the orphanage. Hugo is the film, this is the review, let's go.
What I liked about the film:
I could not imagine my life without film. There have been tough times in my life where the movies were my escape. I have always been one to 'get lost' in the story. This movie is so obviously Scorsese's love letter to cinema. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll be subtle. Hugo is a huge fan of the movies. He takes Isabelle to the movies for the first time, and she falls in love as well. As Hugo's adventure unfolds, Hugo and Isabelle discover there is a lot more to her God father than she thought. I'll leave the rest up to you to discover, but I loved the characters' passion for the cinema.
I have been very vocal on this blog about my hatred for 3D. Movies like Avatar made me excited about the potential for the medium. While movies like Tron: Legacy just simply made me mad at the gouging from the theater for the higher ticket prices. Hugo lives in a train station clock tower; and the brilliant 3D captured it perfectly. It places the audience in the tower with the other characters. The camera follows the young boy through gears and belts and obstacles along the way as he winds up the clocks in the tower. The 3D makes you feel the depth of the setting the characters are in. It's never over the top, which was a pleasant and welcome surprise.
What I didn't like about the film:
Ok, so there was very little I enjoyed about the film; wow, that was even harder to type than I thought it would be. To me, the story was very weak. The movie couldn't decide what story it wanted to tell to be completely honest. Is it the story of Hugo and his father? Hugo the orphan, fighting to survive? Hugo and Isabelle's story? Hugo and Georges? Arg. In every 10-15 minute increment, it changes. It's hard to describe this without giving anything away, so I'll leave you with this; I didn't like the story at all.
Georges is a very intriguing character; but other than Sir Kingsley's performance, the rest was not up to par. The child actors give decent enough performances, but their characters are never fully realized. Butterfield has a few moments where he's about to show off his acting chops, but it's not enough. And wow, Sacha Baron Cohen is asked to perform a slapstick shtick in a film that didn't match that tone. The slapstick felt forced and as if it didn't belong in this movie.
The first act is abysmal. It is unbelievably slow. When it starts to pick up, and we see Hugo and Georges work together, it suddenly and abruptly shifts its attention elsewhere. The run time is 2 hours and 6 minutes (which is short by Scorsese standards), but it felt like a 3 hour bore. I understand it is an adaptation, but I would have tightened the script and sped things up for the audience.
Family Film? What Family Film?
This is being billed as a family film; fit for young and old. Really? A 6 year old is going to sit through Hugo and enjoy themselves more than Puss in Boots? Or Arthur Christmas? C'mon Hollywood. This movie is for a nostalgic crowd who wants to remember the days when they were young. The marketing is all wrong.
Pass until the next Scorsese hit
Believe me, I know what you're thinking. "But it received a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes". I am well aware of this fact, and still defend my opinion. Although aspects of the film and story were terrific, it doesn't mean it was a good movie. I was extremely disappointed in the film. I took away very little, even taking into account I'm a movie lover. It's ok though; Scorsese will ride again. Hopefully his next film will live up to the bar he has raised so high.