Set in the 1930s, Hugo is a family-friendly movie about a French child desperate to hang on to all he has left of his father.
It begins with the boy — Hugo — living by himself in a clock tower at a train station in Paris. To keep his freedom, he keeps the clocks wound, oiled and maintained. The station inspector — ever attentive to the city’s many pilfering orphans — would love to catch him and ship him off to an orphanage.
To get parts for a mechanical man he and his father began to restore, Hugo steals from the toy vendor in the station. Caught by the man, Hugo’s diary — a detailed book done by his dad on how the mechanical man works — is taken from him. It’s his most treasured possession.
That puts him in contact with a young girl who believes in him and with George Melies, the silent filmmaker whose signature film A Trip to the Moon features one of history’s most famous effects, a rocket flying into the eye of the Man on the Moon.
Hugo is played by Asa Butterfield, while his young lady friend portrayed by mega-talented Chloe Grace Mortez ( Kick-Ass). Ben Kingsley is Melies, and Sacha Baron Cohen adds slapstick humor as the station inspector.
Although a bit slow — some might believe it drags — the story is terrific, yet it’s the effects that lock this one down as one of the year’s best.
You’ve never seen a movie like Hugo. Martin Scorsese, a terrific storyteller and director, has created a three-dimensional masterpiece. He surrounds the boy, the rest of the characters and the story with stunning cinematography. You are treated to long, beautiful shots of clocks, gears and pendulums. His camera moves ceaselessly; whooshing here and there, into this nook and that cranny.
Some shots are as dizzying as they are dazzling. Breathtaking does not begin to describe the impact of Scorsese’s camera work, set design and editing. If humanly possible, see Hugo in 3D. In two-dimensions it will still be spectacular, but three-dimensions will take your breath away. You have never seen 3D like this.
On the surface, Hugo is about a boy just trying to survive and the people that grow to love him. Dig deeper and it’s about the love of movies. Probe further and it’s an ode to the making of movies and the sacred art of turning dreams into reality. It’s done by a director whose movies are as legendary, and in this case as imaginative, as the silent film era icon he praises.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG for mature themes. It opens today at Regal’s Columbia Center 8.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.