Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) and his father (Jude Law), used to spend a lot of time tinkering with things. Hugo’s father worked as a clock maker and at a museum. One day, working at the museum, he found an automaton. These were popular at the time (1930s, Paris). This one, they believed, could write. But the gears were damaged and rusted. They worked constantly to try to find suitable replacement parts to get it working again.
In a flashback, we learn that Hugo’s father died in a fire at the museum. Hugo, whose mother is not in the picture for some unexplained reason, then must go live with his alcoholic Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone). Uncle Claude works at the train station, winding and repairing all the clocks. And, being the drunk he is, he actually lives inside the corridors inside the walls of the train station, that allow him to tend to the clocks. Until he disappears. Then Hugo is left to wander the corridors, tending the clocks, and stealing food to get by.
Hugo has also made a hobby out of stealing gears from the toy maker’s, Georges Méliès’ (Ben Kingsley) booth in the station. Until the old man catches him. He threatens to destroy Hugo’s notebook, which includes plans he and his father made to repair the automaton.
Hugo then teams up with Georges’ god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). She likes adventure, and decides to help him get his notebook back and fix the automaton. Little did they know the secrets they would uncover.
I wasn’t really sure what the movie was about before I saw it. Judging from what little I had seen about it, I had assumed it was a kids’ movie. It’s not, really.
The story is slow and plodding. There were a lot of story lines that seemed to be thrown in just to throw in story lines. It seemed disjointed at times. Sasha Baron Cohen plays the station investigator, whose knee was injured and he wears a brace. He is smitten with the station florist, but doesn’t have the courage to talk to her. And he spends all his time chasing down orphans at the station. (Who knows? Maybe this was the thing to do in Paris in the 1930s.) Then there’s the older couple at the café. And the librarian, Christopher Lee. I’m not really sure what his role was.
The movie seemed to be an experiment with what could be done with 3D. There was snow. And gears. And explosions. And “old movies.” And trains running through the station. I could go on and on. It reminded me of when Pixar first got started and would do shorts before their animated movies to experiment with the medium. To see how far they could take it. (This is my sole reason for recommending to see it in the theater, if you’re going to see it.)
I guess what bothers me most about the movie isn’t the pace, or the oddity of the story, or the visuals. It was the fact that for being in a Paris train station, not only did everyone speak the queen’s English, they spoke with the queen’s English accent. It was a little off-putting.
If you were thinking of taking your kids, to see Hugo, you may want to reconsider. There is nothing inappropriate in it. At all. It’s just long. Very long. The story wasn’t very engaging to me. But the two kids I took to see it said it was really good. I asked a few times to make sure they weren’t just saying that to be polite, since they got to go to a pre-release screening*. (I have very polite kids. They know to say thank you and be complimentary to a gift, even if it’s not exactly what you want.)
The whole time, I was wondering why it was such an odd movie. Why it was done the way it was done. And when the credits started, I realized why. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Now it made sense. Had I known this before, I would have gone in with a completely different mindset. Now that you know, you can go in with the proper perspective, and, perhaps, enjoy it more than I did.
*Thanks to 43Kix for the passes.