Sunday, December 25, 2011

Reel To Reel: Hugo

Time for some movie magic.

Going Rate: Worth full price admission in 3D
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law
Rated: PG (but could pass for a G)
Red Flags: Some very mild references to marital infidelity

Why on earth would the man who directed Taxi Driver, GoodFellas, Casino, Gangs Of New York, and Mean Streets want to take on an imaginative 3D family film? Because, silly, Martin Scorsese is one of the greats. And great directors know great movies. This one is a homage to another great: Georges Méliès, a magician who saw film as a new medium for illusion and created the industry that powers so many of today's movies -- special effects.

To summarize the film's plot would rob you of its storybook qualities. Indeed, the entire film has a lovingly storybook vision, as it follows the young boy Hugo (Asa Butterfield) through the inner workings of a train station in 1931 Paris as he keeps the various clocks wound and oiled while dodging the Station Inspector (Cohen). I can tell you that Hugo is hoping to complete a job his father started, and in doing so, he will have a brush with the aforementioned magician. Joining him in his adventure is Georges' goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), who can't understand why she's not allowed to see movies.

The 3D effects are like seasoning on a fine meal. Steam from the railway station leaks onto the screen and bathes you in Hugo's world. The film is in absolute adoration for post-WWI France and the French people, and Scorsese goes to great lengths to make sure you enjoy every bite. Butterfield turns in a solid performance as Hugo, but what struck me the most was his piercing eyes, which are enhanced by the 3D effect. Cohen's comic station inspector has nuance and wit. He should be playing Inspector Clouseau, not Steve Martin if somebody decides to remake another Pink Panther movie. And what can I say about Ben Kingsley, except that I'm glad he's still making movies.

See Hugo in a theater, while you still can. Its magic will loose potency when it comes to Blu-Ray, even if you have a gigantic 3D capable big screen. Some movies are meant to be movies, and Méliès might very well agree.

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