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Hugo

Hugo

What She said:

She

Hugo is a tale of two movies—one about a boy who is searching for family and his purpose in life, and the other about a man who is in denial about his secret past.  Surprisingly, that wasn’t the thing that bothered me most about this epically grand Martin Scorsese family movie.  It was the fact that the film follows a bunch of French people who have English accents.  Why???  No seriously, why?  Why is Chloë Moretz faking an English accent for this movie instead of faking a French one when she’s playing a French girl?  I found it both distracting and bewildering.

Beyond that, there is the former issue that brought Hugo down a level in my book; the fact there seemed to be two, almost competing storylines.  The movie opens telling the sad and heartstring-tugging story of Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), a boy who was forced to live in a Paris train station after his father’s untimely death.  Hugo is still having a difficult time recovering from the loss of his father, but is doing everything in his power to stay out of an orphanage, which means he’s a thief who lives on his own.  Hugo encounters a mean old man, Georges (Ben Kingsley), who owns a toy stand within the train station.  Georges subsequently makes his life miserable, but Hugo bonds with his spirited goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Moretz). 

It’s at this point that the focus of the movie begins to shift.  We start to learn the mysteries of Georges, and Hugo and Isabelle make it their quest to discover his true background.  Yada Yada Yada, two hours later we come to a happy resolution.  In the meantime, there’s lots of chasing around by bumbling Inspector Gustave, whose job it seems is to monitor the station for orphan children, arrest them, and send them away.  Sacha Baron Cohen is actually almost charming in the role.  I’m not a huge fan of his, but he seemed much more genuine and dare-I-say funny than normal. 

Beyond the issues that I had with Hugo the movie was actually quite impressive.  I have to think they spent a bundle of money to make it.  Visually, it is one of the most spectacular films I have seen, and home viewing is best done on Blu-ray.  I love when the cameras are so exact that you can see the reflection off actors’ eyes.  The set decoration and CG is magnificent in that the scenes are filled with lush colors and precision detail.  As Hugo navigates the back corroders of the train station, climbs the clock towers, and looks out upon the city of Paris you cannot help but have your breath taken away by the sights.  The reproduction of the old Georges Méliès films was also quite impressive, although this aspect of the movie may not necessarily resonate with a younger audience.

I would have enjoyed it more if the film went into greater depth about Hugo’s background, his relationship with his father, and his personal growth as he moves beyond his father’s death, rather than have the plot diverge the way that it did.  I get it, there are parallels, and we can see the intersections between Georges and Hugo, but for a movie that is in many ways for children, this is not going to make sense or have any value.  Truly a filmmakers film, Hugo has its definite ups and downs.  Thank goodness the ups are so unbelievably breathtaking.

Thumbs half up.

What he said:

He

Hugo is the story of an orphan boy who lives in a train station. He lives behind walls and inside all kinds of other secret passages that only he knows about. Nobody knows he lives there, but Inspector Gustave (Sacha Baron Cohen) suspects something is not as it should be. He’s always on the lookout for orphans; who apparently see the train station as something of a hideout.

Georges – a local vendor who has a small toyshop in the train station – is also something of a thorn in Hugo’s side. He suspects Hugo has been stealing from him and is out to prove it. Georges eventually throws a wrench into Hugo’s plans when he turns the tables and steals something from Hugo. This forces Hugo to make the next move. He does so in attempting to recruit the help of Georges goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Moretz).

Hugo is on a mission.  Other than simply keeping his head above water, there’s something else leftover from when he was living with his father (who has passed away). Something he just has to keep doing until he has some kind of answer. He’s willing to do anything to get back the information he needs from Georges to see this through.

Isabelle is sympathetic to his cause. Not to mention, she’s a bit of a dreamer. She has a serious hankering for an adventure, so she jumps at the opportunity to help him.

The two of them end up going on a series of twists and turns and uncovering some hidden pasts of a few different people along the way. The journey ends up going in a direction they didn’t foresee, but it’s still an interesting one nonetheless.

Hugo is a visual marvel. It’s one of the best examples of CGI environments I have ever seen. Too often it simply looks phony. You can tell a movie is being filmed in front of a blue/green screen. However, when coupled with some actual sets it makes some wonderful looking backdrops. In Hugo, it really adds to the experience instead of detracting from it.

The acting is solid too. Newcomer (at least I’ve never seen him before) Asa Butterfield adds some soul to the movie. His portrayal as the determined Hugo was very heartfelt. This kid has the heart of Rocky Balboa. Chloë Moretz is very quickly becoming one of my favorite young actresses. I just really enjoy watching her. She’s got some nice range and a good screen presence. Ben Kingsley is simply fantastic has her “Papa Georges”. He adds the right mix of sympathy, coldness, and downright bitterness to this complex character. I also have to give a shout out to Sacha Baron Cohen. I’m not a real big fan of this guy’s typical shtick, but I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. When I see him in stuff like this and Sweeney Todd, I appreciate him a lot more. If I were him, I’d give up the whole prank/hidden camera gimmick and look for more roles like this one.

The biggest complaint I have about the movie is the accents. Why the hell is everyone speaking in an English accent? The movie takes place in France. Did I miss something? It sounds really weird to hear the accents, but then to see such a clearly French environment.  Why not simply cast French actors? Weird.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on March 5, 2012.