Hugo (2011)

Movie Poster
"Hugo"    2011   PG   126 minutes
Children Movie,  Family movie,   Sci-Fi, Based on a book, Drama,   Adventure, Imaginative

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Ben Kingsley,  Sacha Baron Cohen,  Asa Butterfield,  Chloë Grace Moretz,  Jude Law,  Christopher Lee,  Ray Winstone,  Emily Mortimer

A lot:    -
Some:  Alcohol, Death, Illness, Language, Violence
No:       Drugs, Gore, Sex/Nudity, Perversion, Torture

Overall Grade: “B”  

Directing: “A-“,   Acting: “B”,   Visual Effects: “A-“
Story Line: “B-“,   Concept: “B”,   Aftertaste: “B-“
Family Friendliness: “B-“,   Date Movie: “C+”
I had high expectations for “Hugo” – the movie that   earned eleven Oscar nominations and won five of them (mostly technical though), the movie praised by critics and public alike, and, last but not least, the movie directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese.

At the same time, I had my share of doubts. My intuition was persistently telling me that something might not be right about “Hugo”. The underwhelming trailer, the story based on the recently published unconventional book for tweens “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”, the very large budget combined with the poor box office performance – all these signs were subtly indicating that “Hugo” possibly might turn out to be a disappointment.

After having finally seen the movie, I could confirm that despite all the “Hugo”'s impressive strengths and solid redeeming qualities, disappointment was definitely the strongest of the mixed emotions that I felt during and after the viewing.

Definitely not a masterpiece and not among the best Martin Scorsese’s works either, “Hugo” strangely resembled a slightly improved variation of a typical Steven Spielberg movie, only a little smarter, a little deeper, and a little sharper, but still mostly one-dimensional, simplistic, and almost irritably superficial. In addition, “Hugo” turned out to be a little slow, elitist, and bookish that did not bring any additional charm to its already struggling story (John Logan).

Yes, “Hugo” is a tale, but it is more a superficially entertaining, unoriginal tale a-la Spielberg than a visionary, thought provoking tale with a deep meaning. While emotional, touching, and cute on the surface, “Hugo” does not have enough substance and depth to make us feel genuine interest or true compassion.

The movie does quite poorly in comparison to some recent influential tales made into movies. While the wise "Charlotte’s Web" successfully tackles the topics of life and death and true friendship, “Hugo” just barely scratches the surface of these subjects so important for children and adult audiences alike. While the mesmerizing, and captivating "Coraline" is full of thought-provoking dark symbolism, “Hugo” is glossy but bland, visually imaginative but substantially unoriginal. The movie looks like a perfectly assembled, but lifeless and uninspiring mechanism used to animate the story of life of the French pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès.

It also does not help that throughout the movie we see almost no character development except maybe for one character, skillfully played by the amazing as usual Ben Kingsley. In addition, many of the characters in “Hugo” are one-dimensional stereotypes: a cute courting elderly couple, a wise enthusiastic professor, a gentle loving father, a hard drinking wretched uncle, and more.

It was sad to see the solid Martin Scorsese's directing as well as all the Oscar winning qualities of the movie: the beautiful cinematography (Robert Richardson), the worthy visual effects, and the outstanding art direction (Francesca Lo SchiavoDante Ferretti) wasted on the undeserving at the end story.

It was disappointing to watch the great Ben Kingsley and the rest of the talented, well-balanced cast desperately trying to breathe life into this mostly artificial gimmick.

Sacha Baron Coen proved once again, just as he did in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” that he is a talented, unique gifted actor capable of a memorable, multifaceted performance as long as he plays in a well-directed decent movie and not in the sickening garbage that he usually stars in.

Ray Winstone and Emily Mortimer were convincing in their supporting roles. Jude Law had one small, but memorable scene. Christopher Lee was perfect as a mysterious librarian, although his whole character seemed to be one of the unnecessary additions to the already lengthy and slowly moving story.

Both children characters – the overly cute, but uncharismatic Asa Butterfield’s Hugo and the pretty, but woodenly inexpressive Chloë Grace Moretz’s Isabelle - were less than impressive.

Overall, despite all the hype, “Hugo” is definitely not a movie I would classify as a “must see”. Professionally made nice looking entertainment - maybe, but not a significant achievement in the art of cinema.