Many movies are marketed as "family films" because they appeal to all audiences, yet this usually means completely enthralled children and adults bored out of their minds. Martin Scorsese's new movie Hugo, however, is the rare family film that may actually enchant the adults more than their children.
The film tells the story of a young boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield) who ensures that the clocks run correctly at a train station in 1920s Paris. After losing his father in a fire, he is forced to live in the walls of the station with the only item his father left behind: a broken automaton.
As Hugo searches for parts to fix the automaton he crosses paths with the owner of the toyshop in the station, Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley) – a grumpy old man with a charming goddaughter named Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). Isabelle and Hugo become good friends and embark upon adventures like breaking into a cinema to catch the latest movie. As their relationship deepens, Hugo learns Isabelle may hold the key to restoring his automaton.
Hugo is a radical change for Scorsese, who has a reputation as a master of dark and violent films, yet you can still feel his presence in every corner of this movie. From the masterful camerawork, the incredible acting and intricately-detailed production design, this film has Scorsese written all over it.
While Hugo has charming characters and an engaging plot, the heart and center of this movie is Scorsese's love of movies. The film acts as somewhat of a history lesson, providing information about the origins of movies along with segments of classic silent films. The famous fantasy short A Trip to the Moon, along with the iconic image from the film of a ship wedged into the "face" of the moon, is central to the plot.
A strong knowledge of the genesis of film and early movies isn't necessary to enjoy this movie, though movie buffs and cinephiles will probably appreciate this film the most. It reminds us why we love movies – perfectly encapsulating the awe and wonder we feel when watching a great film. This is greatly aided by the film's visuals and use of 3-D.
When Avatar was released in 2009, 3-D was poised to become the new way to experience film. Unfortunately, many have since derided 3-D as a gimmick and cash grab by studios that generally makes movies look dark and lifeless. Hugo reinvigorates the hope that 3-D can not only be used effectively, but can make a movie magical. The 3-D visuals in Hugo make all the gorgeous details pop and immerse viewers in the magical world Scorsese has created.
It seems rare these days to find a great movie that doesn't have immense amounts of cursing, violence or sex. Hugo manages to say something profound without any of that. It is the best PG-rated movie to come out in several years and worth the extra money to see in 3-D.