'Hugo' proves to be a compelling 3-D marvel

Hugo is one of the rare movies I’d ac­tu­ally re­com­mend see­ing in 3-D as op­posed to the tra­di­tion­al 2-D ver­sion. It has all the ele­ments of a good flick — top-notch act­ing, a good story, and, most of all, it’s ex­tremely ap­peal­ing visu­ally.

What’s Hugo about? If you’re like me, you have little to no idea from watch­ing the pre­views, which left me feel­ing am­bigu­ous about the movie be­fore go­ing in­to the theat­er. Quite simply, it’s about fam­ily, friend­ship — and film. It uniquely com­bines the ex­cite­ment of the early days of cinema with today’s 3-D tech­no­logy.

Hugo def­in­itely feels like a movie by someone who ob­vi­ously loves film. Still, it is a bit of a sur­prise to see a kid-friendly film dir­ec­ted by Mar­tin Scorsese (the man be­hind The God­fath­er movies, Good­fel­las and The De­par­ted, among many oth­ers), since Scorsese’s last fam­ily film was — well, nev­er.

The movie’s title char­ac­ter (played by Asa But­ter­field) is an orphan who lives in a clock tower in a Par­is train sta­tion. Hugo is con­stantly on the run from the Sta­tion In­spect­or (the re­li­ably quirky Sacha Bar­on Co­hen), who wants to scoop up all the par­ent­less youth and send them to an orphan­age.

When Hugo is not on the run, he is tinker­ing with a broken auto­maton (mech­an­ic­al ro­bot man), the last tie to his de­ceased fath­er (Jude Law in flash­backs).

In between scroun­ging for food, Hugo steals parts for his auto­maton from a toy shop. Only one prob­lem — the crotchety old own­er, George Me­lies (Ben Kings­ley), has had it with things go­ing miss­ing from his shop and de­cides to take away something of great im­port­ance to Hugo.

Hugo meets a young girl named Isa­belle (Chloe Grace Moretz, the awe­some girl from Kick-Ass), who hap­pens to be George’s god­daugh­ter. Hugo and Isa­belle em­bark on un­rav­el­ing the mys­tery of George’s past life and find out he is in­ter­est­ingly tied to the broken old auto­maton.

All wrapped up in this sort of con­vo­luted tale is a trib­ute to movies, in par­tic­u­lar the very be­gin­nings of cinema and si­lent film, with George as an early film­maker. One of the most mem­or­able mo­ments was the re­ac­tion of early film audi­ences to see­ing a train on the big screen (they thought it was go­ing to come through) jux­ta­posed with today’s 3-D visu­als (it really did look like the train came through the screen). I’d ima­gine it felt just as ma­gic­al then as it does now.

Hugo is based on Bri­an Selznick’s best-selling nov­el, The In­ven­tion of Hugo Cab­ret, but I found the whole orphan-in-Par­is set­ting a bit clich&ea­cute;d, like it was ripped from the pages of a Charles Dick­ens nov­el. The scenes with the Sta­tion In­spect­or were some­times cheesy, but they provided some laughs and light­hearted mo­ments.

Hugo is a bit on the long side for a fam­ily flick (just over two hours) and some­times felt slug­gish as the story slowly un­fol­ded. It’s prob­ably best suited to older kids and adults, be­cause young­sters with short at­ten­tion spans may get bored.

Still, it’s nice to see an in­tel­li­gent movie geared to chil­dren. Not every kid­die flick needs toi­let hu­mor and fart jokes. ••

Movie Grade: B+

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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