Martin Scorsese has made some of the most violent films ever made. The scene in Goodfellas where Joe Pesci stabs a guy in the neck with a pen is pretty brutal, but watching Pesci get beaten to death with baseball bats and then buried alive in Casino is even worse. So when I heard that Scorsese's new project was going to be in 3D, I was worried I'd see a head shot coming at me; but after finding out it was also going to be a children's movie shocked me even more than a head shot would.
Hugo is based on the children's book by Brian Selznick about a young boy who lives in a famed train station in Paris and is trying to fix a complex robot left behind by his dead father. However, he also befriends a man who runs a toy shop at the station named Georges Melies and his goddaughter, Isabella. I never read the book but I'm guessing that Melies was a small character because if the book became more about him than it did about Hugo, I wouldn't imagine the book would be as popular among children. That is not the angle that Scorsese took with his film and by doing that, he's lost most of his audience.
Georges Melies was a real person. In the film he's played wonderfully by Ben Kingsley (Ghandi, Sexy Beast), who might get an Oscar nomination out of Hugo. But in real life, Melies was the first filmmaker to use special effects. His most famous film was A Trip to the Moon, made in 1902, and it has that iconic shot of a rocket hitting the "man in the moon's" eye. Melies was one of the most influencial filmmaker and it's amazing to see Scorsese's love of cinema personified in Hugo by making a film about the creator of special effects with state-of-the-art special effects and 3D.
However, the movie becomes ABOUT Melies and in that, I'm not sure who this movie is made for anymore. The second half of the film is a tribute to cinema and has some moving scenes if you appreciate classic film. But kids couldn't give two farts about classic cinema and will be lost and bored by the second half. The first half of the film features slapstick, luke warm comedy provided by Sacha Baron Coen (Bruno, Borat) and is too childish for adults who can appreciate the rest of the film.
Overall, the film moves too slowly to really impress either way. Sure the visuals are spectacular and the 3D is some of the best you'll see, using gimmick techinques and legit depth, but all that isn't enough to get you through the two hour plus runtime. Even a skilled young actress like Chloe Grace Moretz (Let Me In, Kick-Ass), who is only 14 in people years but 30 in thespianic years, can't increase the pulse of Hugo. I'm not gonna put all the blame on Asa Butterfield (The Wolfman, The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas), who plays the titular character, although he's not half as good at acting as his adorable appearance would have you believe.
It's a shame that Scoresese, a man who's made some of the fastest paced, action-packed, fun movies in the histroy of cinema, created such a slow film. That's not to say that it's not great in parts, but those parts are all going to be different for everyone and the film as a whole isn't very enjoyable to one person. Maybe it should have had more head shots. Hugo (Rated PG)
Gavin Grade: B-
I think you are being generous giving the movie a B-. My husband and I took our 3 children to see the movie, ages 9,13, and 16. The trailer made the movie look like it was going to be a magical plot. The movie was incredibly slow, and it was not clear what the plot was trying to focus on. The movie completely lost me when they focused on Melies career and cinema. No movie should be over 2 hours, especially one that lacks any action. I take that back Lord of the Rings was riveting the entire 3 hours.