Back in December I went with some friends to see Hugo. Based on the kids' book The Invention of Hugo Cabret and directed by Martin Scorsese, I was curious to see how this seemingly odd combination worked. After getting some great reviews it is nominated 11 Oscars the most of any movie this year.
Hugo is about a boy Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) who lives alone in a Paris train station during the 1930s. After his father died, he went and lived with his uncle, who fixed the clocks at the train station. One day his uncle got drunk and disappeared and Hugo continued to work on the clocks and lived secretly in the station. He would sneak around the station and steal food while trying to avoid the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) who was always looking to send kids to the orphanage.
Besides food, he steals little trinkets to fix an automaton that he was working on with his father before he died. There is a key that will make it work that he can't find, but his search leads him to meet the mysterious old man George (Ben Kingsley) and his God-Daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). Isabelle and Hugo start a friendship and they learn that Isabelle has the key that makes the automaton work and it is connected to George's past. They also learn that George is the legendary film director George Melies, who after losing most of his work, became disillusioned with movies and now lives a simple life trying to forget his past.
Like I said, going to see a movie based on a children's book felt a little weird but it ended up being a movie I think everyone can enjoy. The odd thing is that halfway through the movie it switches from a kid's movie to a more mature movie. The beginning is funny and is the more childish part of the movie. Sacha Baron Cohen, who is better known for his over the top characters in Borat and Bruno, tones it down and plays the funny station inspector. As Hugo and Isabelle find out more about George’s past as a famous movie director, the movie changes tone from childish adventure to adult melancholy. Watching it you don't notice it as much because Scorsese does a good job of keeping the plot moving forward, but thinking back on it seems odd having a half kids and half adult movie. I am not sure if the kids will get the second half but they should enjoy the first half.
For me the thing that ties it all together is when Hugo is talking about having a purpose. He says "I'd imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts…if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn't be an extra part, I had to be here for some reason." Everyone in the movie is searching for their purpose in the world.
This is a movie everyone can find something to enjoy in it, overall it is entertaining but does feel a little unbalanced. For movie history buffs it is great to see George Melies get some overdue recognition, but since the movie was marketed as a kid's adventure movie people might be expecting something different than what they get. It is supposed to be one of the best uses of 3-D but I can’t comment on that since I only saw the 2-D version.
Also, I thought Ben Kingsley was brilliant in the movie and should have gotten a Best Supporting Actor Nomination. And it was good seeing Chloe Grace Moretz playing someone age appropriate after her roles in R-rated movies like Kick-Ass and Let Me In. She is a young actress who could become a superstar.
Nominated for 11 awards, its best chance of winning are in some of the technical categories like Bet Art Direction, but it is up against The Artist for a lot of the same awards and The Artist has all the momentum. Hugo might end up being one of those rare movies that get nominated for 11 awards and win zero.