The 3D bandwagon has had some extra weight thrown on
The 3D bandwagon has had some extra weight thrown on to it
since Martin Scorsese decided to use the technology to make Hugo, a charming
Christmas movie based on the book ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’. Going up against other three-dimensional
fare like Arthur Christmas, Hugo may be able to hold its own but this Parisian
adventure might not be quite the draw Scorsese hopes it will.
Orphaned Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is living inside the walls
and clock towers of a large Paris train station, keeping the clocks in working
order and avoiding the vigilant station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). In his sparse living quarters, Hugo
spends his time desperately trying to repair an automaton his father had found
before his death. Confident that
the secrets of the strange machine will provide meaning for Hugo, he resolves
to fix it with stolen parts from a toy booth within the station, run by Georges
(Ben Kingsley) and his goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Moretz).
When Isabelle reveals that her heart-shaped necklace is the
key to Hugo’s machine, the pair embark on an adventure to find long-forgotten
dreams and the people who create them.
At least, that’s what most of the film is about. The rest is filled with Scorsese’s
infatuation with cinema and film restoration – kids love that, right? Many
parents may find young children quickly losing interest while older viewers are
more likely to appreciate the rose-tinted 1930s version of Paris with an
illuminating story about the magic of cinema. Trying to find a balance between a history lesson and the
plot of the movie, John Logan’s script struggles and, what was intended to be a
love-letter to early cinema, turns in places into a lecture, with the biggest
cinephiles wondering where the plot of the movie went.
The beauty of Scorsese’s Paris matched with the dreamlike
quality of Georges Méliès films are wonderful to see, especially in 3D, but the
visuals don’t save the film when the storyline begins to drag. Of course, it’s always better to have a
tedious but beautiful 3D film by Martin Scorsese than it is to have to endure
the usual converted Summer trash.
Asa Butterfield is a standout performer whose Hugo is
beautifully subtle, especially when compared to Chloe Moretz who, though
arguably a more mature performer, hams things up a little more than she
should. Butterfield’s portrayal of
a desperately lonely child is thrilling and ensures that he will go on to
bigger roles. Hugo and Isabelle’s sweet friendship develops nicely through the
film but is ultimately abandoned in the last act in favour of another cinematic
seminar. Moretz’s Isabelle is also
a little too stereotypically French for her own good; she wears a striped
jumper, a beret and early on she delivers a loaf of French bread. If she cycled past Hugo wearing a
string of onions, it would surprise no one.
Ben Kingsley and Helen McCrory as Isabelle’s Godparents are
superb, providing a parental influence for the children’s adventure, while
Sacha Baron Cohen’s Inspector walks the fine line between absurdity and
menace. There’s also delightful
support from Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour and Emily
Mortimer as a romantic interest for the Inspector.
There is definitely a feeling of magic and wonder about Hugo
but it’s not enough to sustain a two hour film that, no matter how beautiful,
is still tedious.