By ERIN KENDERISH
If the world is like a machine, with no extra parts, then we all have purpose. That’s what the title character of Scorsese’s newest film “Hugo” believes. Hugo believes his purpose is to fix things, namely the clocks at the Parisian train station in which he lives.
“Hugo” is a coming-of-age story about a boy, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield). His father (Jude Law) brings home an abandoned and broken automaton, a humanoid machine that performs a set of encoded tasks.
The small family of clock repairers set about fixing it up in the hopes of finding out what it is programmed to do, until the tragic day when Hugo’s father dies in a fire at the Musée du Louvre, and the boy becomes an orphan. His drunken Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone) collects him to live in the train station and forces him to maintain the multitudes of clocks there, but disappears shortly thereafter.
Hugo spends his time in between these tasks observing the many quirky shopkeepers at the station, stealing both food and clock parts for the automaton, all while trying to avoid the attention of the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen, who naturally earned some of the biggest laughs) – a man quick to send any urchin he catches to the dismal orphanages.
But Hugo’s peaceful routine is disrupted when he is caught by a shopkeeper, Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), who confiscates Hugo’s father’s notebook containing a series of sketches about the automaton.
Joined by Georges’ goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), the duo strives to uncover the connection between Georges and the mysterious automaton.
While billed as a quirky family comedy, it might be a little hard to find a kid who could sit through this movie without fidgeting; it’s a long and quiet movie, with the action scenes few and far between.
This by no means implies that it isn’t good, however. “Hugo” never drags too badly in its pacing and is well-made and well-acted. The sets and costumes are gorgeous and every frame is a visual feast, transporting the audience to Paris in the 1920s with a stunning use of Real-D 3-D – some of the best in this format yet.
It will leave some wondering why all the characters speak in English accents while the film is set in France, though.
It is easy to see that this film is Martin Scorsese’s baby and that the production was near and dear to his heart. This movie is especially good for history buffs; there are little Easter Eggs throughout and those unfamiliar with film’s start will get a quick lesson about the pioneering Lumière brothers and one of the first notable films ever made, “Arrival of a Train at a Station.”
“Hugo” showcases some remarkable talent, new and old alike, and also tells a quirky tale that will charm almost anyone who watches.