Hugo (PG)

Film

Fantasy films

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Wed Nov 23 2011

What an exceptionally un-Martin Scorsese-like film ‘Hugo’ appears to be on the surface: a 3D festive kids’ adventure with a boo-hiss baddie set on the not-so-mean streets of 1930s Paris. And yet it is possible this is one of the director’s most personal films: a love letter to cinema, to the magical emotional imperfection of celluloid just as its days are numbered. It’s a film about making films, about losing your heart – and finding yourself – in a pitch-black movie theatre.

On one level ‘Hugo’ is simply a dazzling children’s fairy tale adapted by John Logan (‘The Aviator’) from Brian Selznick’s 2007 graphic novel and deploying the latest CG technology bewitchingly to create its Paris setting. This isn’t real Paris, but reel Paris – bigger and better, more magical than life. Fourteen-year-old Londoner Asa Butterfield stars and has exactly the right sad little soulful face and intelligence to play the orphaned Hugo – who lives secretly in the eaves of a Paris station winding up the clocks. He’s trying to fix an automaton that his watchmaker dad (Jude Law) worked on before his death – a little mechanical man holding a fountain pen. Hugo believes the automaton will summon up a message from beyond the grave and enlists the help of gung-ho tomboy Isabelle (Chlöe Grace Moretz of ‘Kick Ass’, a dash too peppy).

The mystery of the automaton leads not to Hugo’s dad but to the movies – specifically the birth of cinema and director Georges Méliès, played superbly by Ben Kingsley as a study in wounded pride. This part of the story is borrowed from life: Méliès was a magician-turned-early cinema pioneer. After falling from grace, most of his 500 or so films were destroyed; Méliès was discovered years later working as a toymaker in Paris’s Montparnasse station. Here’s an irresistible autobiographical parallel: Scorsese famously ‘found’ director Michael Powell in the ’70s – like Méliès, forgotten and on his uppers. And one of his enduring gifts to cinema has been preserving and restoring films.

Scorsese takes us on a whistle-stop tour of cinema history (which may leave smaller kids squirming and bored). Hugo and Isabelle watch Harold Lloyd. There’s a flashback to Méliès seeing the Lumière Brothers’ film of a train pulling into a station. The audience ducks – as they really did. It’s a terrifically cinéastic defence of 3D: movies were always meant to jump out of the screen at you, Scorsese is saying. And he puts 3D to good use: yes, in the complex machinations of the station’s huge clocks, but most satisfyingly in his actors’ faces which light up the screen with depth and beauty.

The cast is mostly British, giving the whole thing a Dickensian feel, with many nods to the slapstick of early silents. Sacha Baron Cohen plays the villain of the piece, the station’s policeman, like a cross between the Child Catcher in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and Mr Bumble the beadle in ‘Oliver!’ Some of this is broad and the gags wheeze a little. It’s all a little too patchy to be truly great and the story splutters along in places, but ‘Hugo’s quixotic faith in movies is intoxicating: ‘If you ever wondered where your dreams come from, they’re made here,’ says Kingsley’s Méliès. It might be curtains for celluloid, but Scorsese, a boyish 69, clearly isn’t leaving the stage any time soon. He directs every film with the passion of his first. And it shows.
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Release details

Rated:

PG

UK release:

Fri Dec 2, 2011

Duration:

122 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:11
  • 4 star:6
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:6
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|46
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Francois

What a tedious and disappointing film! It is poor on most levels - script, story, acting, pace... only the recreation of swinging 20's Paris is worth a look. I was really surprised that Scorsese could not extract more from his actors and the story. The story crawls along with almost every scene dragging longer than it should. The two main child actors are unconvincing and have little chemistry. Maybe Scorsese was aiming for quaint, Amelie style Parisian quirkiness and double guessed his normal instincts? Difficult to recognize the man behind the Departed or Cape Fear here... without his name and the Hollywood mega budget this film would have gone quite unnoticed.

Emily

The film in my opinion was slightly boring, but it definitely had it's moments and the right atmosphere

cineast633

Three satisfied customers aged 10, 34 and 66 all watched entranced by the central characters and the 3D recreation of reel Paris. Even the 10 year old boy who rapidly gets bored with non-action sequences lasted the course. Yes, its a little too long, and could have been approached very differently, but it's an interesting absorbing and valid take.

lexstra

What a disappointment. This film was so hyped and it turns out to be quite boring. It contains pointless scenes that were inserted simply to satisfy the 3D gimmick. It is maudlin and utterly predictable. The cinematography and set design are attracrive but ultimately the film is vacuous.

mo

Wish I'd been able to see it in 3D. Wasn't really disappointed [I usually am when I see a film that I've been looking forward to for a long time] but I would have liked it to be about 30 minutes shorter. Thought it was a tad over sentimental, but then found myself wiping away a tear at the end.

Gerry Mac

Any movie which puts a permanent smile on my face throughout its length is good enough for me. However, personal emotions apart, this is one master of the cinema's homage of love to the art form which gave him his life. The passion which is evident in any interviews Scorcese has given over the years on his feelings for film, shouts from every frame. And each frame is stunning; the CGI is state of the art and, if Paris has never looked lovelier, so what? It's a simple tale of fantasy beautifully told and the canvas on which it is painted is stunningly beautiful. The acting, for the most part, is superb and believable, the cinematography is to die for.All-in-all, for a feel-good movie without the usual mawkishness, Hugo stands among the best.

Gerry Mac

Any movie which puts a permanent smile on my face throughout its length is good enough for me. However, personal emotions apart, this is one master of the cinema's homage of love to the art form which gave him his life. The passion which is evident in any interviews Scorcese has given over the years on his feelings for film, shouts from every frame. And each frame is stunning; the CGI is state of the art and, if Paris has never looked lovelier, so what? It's a simple tale of fantasy beautifully told and the canvas on which it is painted is stunningly beautiful. The acting, for the most part, is superb and believable, the cinematography is to die for.All-in-all, for a feel-good movie without the usual mawkishness, Hugo stands among the best.

Kate

Disappointment does not adequately describe the difference between the hype and reality of this film. While some of the cinematography is interesting, this is tedious film without an obvious plot/theme. Without an explanation of what the film purports to be, one struggles to derive any sense of the story line, plot or purpose. Yes, it is different to the usual Hollywood pap but that, of itself, does not justify the accolades for what is a tedious film with a bemusing plot. Don't trust the star rating but read the critiques.

jennitpk

Lovely thoughtful children's film. Beautiful to look at and the details of the scenes and references through the movie would make if worth watching again. Agree with the reviewers that a little of the acting could be a bit more convincing, but the rest of the film more than made up for that. My children of 8 and 10 also enjoyed it. A welcome relief from the usual children's movie fare.

cliff williams

I fell for all the hype and went to see Hugo on New Year's eve. The movie was visually beautiful, but the acting lacked any credibility (with the exception of Jude Law)....every one either over acted or were totally unconvincing in their roles (especially the two children) The plot was extremely boring and predictable. I expected to see the two children exchange rings in the end, almost as corny as the two dog lovers, the flower girl and the station guard and on and on ...god I wanted it to end sooner. The director will probably get all of the 'hollywood hyped' credit, but isn't he supposed to be responsible for the actor's performances as well? Makes one mistrust reviews.

Leah Ray

Peter Ludbrook, I couldn't agree more! A thoroughly absorbing, intelligent movie of great humanity. I saw it with an almost entirely adult audience, so I am delighted to hear that the children in your audience were as mesmerized as we were.

Leah Ray

Peter Ludbrook, I couldn't agree more! A thoroughly absorbing, intelligent movie of great humanity. I saw it with an almost entirely adult audience, so I am delighted to hear that the children in your audience were as mesmerized as we were.

Peter Ludbrook

I loved this movie. It was far better than I expected being both entertaining and at times quite moving. My companion, who was initially doubtful about seeing the movies, was captivated from the opening sequence. Certainly, neither of us were bored by it. On the contrary we were entranced both by the plot and the remarkable 3D effects. It was instructive to compare them with the crude 3D effects on offer in the trailers that preceded "Hugo". Yes, it is a love letter to early cinema in general and George Melies in particular but as a devotee of early cinema I share those sentiments. Several writers have wondered how much young children will get out of it. We saw it in a suburban London Odeon over Christmas. The cinema was packed and many young children were in the audience. My fears of bored, restless children spoiling my enjoyment were completely unfounded. They seemed as engaged by the movie as did the adults. For me this film reminded why I first fell in love with cinema nearly six decades ago and I've no hesitation in giving it 5 stars.

Peter Ludbrook

I loved this movie. It was far better than I expected being both entertaining and at times quite moving. My companion, who was initially doubtful about seeing the movies, was captivated from the opening sequence. Certainly, neither of us were bored by it. On the contrary we were entranced both by the plot and the remarkable 3D effects. It was instructive to compare them with the crude 3D effects on offer in the trailers that preceded "Hugo". Yes, it is a love letter to early cinema in general and George Melies in particular but as a devotee of early cinema I share those sentiments. Several writers have wondered how much young children will get out of it. We saw it in a suburban London Odeon over Christmas. The cinema was packed and many young children were in the audience. My fears of bored, restless children spoiling my enjoyment were completely unfounded. They seemed as engaged by the movie as did the adults. For me this film reminded why I first fell in love with cinema nearly six decades ago and I've no hesitation in giving it 5 stars.

james  bradley

Half an hour too long, wreaks of over indulgent director and producers afraid to confront him re the cut. Wish I'd waited for DVD

Evie

I *quite* liked it. Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz certainly shine but the plot is slow paced and might be a bit too meandering for younger children to keep up. I enjoyed the sense of childish wonder and the faux-parisien setting but the emotional pay off I was waiting for never really came.

critique

Visually splendid (worth the extra cost to view in 3D) but very boring. Two and a half stars.

Leah Ray

An inspiring film; it works on so many levels, it requires more than one viewing to appreciate it. The story is simple enough, but the layers of cinematic references, artistic flourishes and period details make it a feast for the mind as well as the eyes. In terms of cinema storytelling, it is a bit oddball; the story arc is not conventional, but rather follows the line of the novel. This makes it feel a bit off-kilter, but if one can see beyond that, it is an utterly rewarding and moving experience. I would rather see this than a whole raft of by-the-numbers usual movies. And if you feel inspired by it to watch Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and their peers, you will not be sorry you did! That is, of course, in addition to the films of Melies, the Lumiere brothers and the other pioneers.

Leah Ray

An inspiring film; it works on so many levels, it requires more than one viewing to appreciate it. The story is simple enough, but the layers of cinematic references, artistic flourishes and period details make it a feast for the mind as well as the eyes. In terms of cinema storytelling, it is a bit oddball; the story arc is not conventional, but rather follows the line of the novel. This makes it feel a bit off-kilter, but if one can see beyond that, it is an utterly rewarding and moving experience. I would rather see this than a whole raft of by-the-numbers usual movies. And if you feel inspired by it to watch Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and their peers, you will not be sorry you did! That is, of course, in addition to the films of Melies, the Lumiere brothers and the other pioneers.

3 stars

This was the first 3D live action film I've seen that actually seemed to be using the 3D properly. Some great performances (Ben Kingsley as usual is wonderful and Sacha Baron Cohen managed to be silly and sympathetic). I found the story sort of misleading though - it began as a kind of creepy mystery, and ended up not particularly mysterious at all. Jude Law appears for a split second, disappointingly) and the kids are okay, but I think the editing is a bit slow and makes them seem as if they're mugging a bit or something. It was visually stunning, and the first time I thought the extra charge for the 3D was actually worth it.

Lynn

Mesmerising, haunting, visually spectacular. I loved very moment as did my 10 year old son. I also cried a couple of times and he held my hand.

Lynn

Mesmerising, haunting, visually spectacular. I loved very moment as did my 10 year old son. I also cried a couple of times and he held my hand.

Catriona

Turgid, stilted, mawkish and predictable. Looks lovely tho. Spot Scorsese's appearance as a photographer.

scrumpyjack

Jag, it IS your fault, let me assure you. But no more Marty big bucks fare for a long while as 3 week $35M U.S. take (on a $100m + budget unless he has biblical powers) and down to two shows in my local after just 14 days indicate a B.O. STINKER! Oh well, I liked it so Cheers mart!

Jag

Watching this film, which I found mildly enjoyable, (although I agree with the comment about the acting, apart from Ben KIngsley, being pretty poor all round) I suddenly realised why I find Scorcese to be the most over rated director of recent times - he has an absolutely tin-ear for scripts. This was yet another good story spoiled by a poor, unpacy, cliche-ridden screenplay which he decided to film without apparently being aware of its faults. Maybe it's my fault, but I can't think of a memorable/quotable line in the whole of this man's output.

Blaize67

Well, opinion is divided. On the one hand this is "gorgeous even more so than Paris itself " and on the other a "heap of crap". Unforttunately I must report it's really rather boring, with acting so wooden you'll wince. The 9 year olds I took as part of a Birthday celebration were, to say the least, unengaged.

Irene

Brilliant film one of the best I've ever seen, enchanting,endearing. I thought it was wonderful.

Irene

Brilliant film one of the best I've ever seen, enchanting,endearing. I thought it was wonderful.

Iain

Anyone not knocked out by this film obviously has no feel for cinema. It's the best film I've seen for ages and the first time I've seen 3D enhance a live action film. Scorsese proves yet again, as he did with The Age of Innocence, that whatever genre he tackles he is an amazing filmmaker.

Iain

Anyone not knocked out by this film obviously has no feel for cinema. It's the best film I've seen for ages and the first time I've seen 3D enhance a live action film. Scorsese proves yet again, as he did with The Age of Innocence, that whatever genre he tackles he is an amazing filmmaker.

Filmweasel

Boooooooring! I struggled to keep myself awake. It is so long to get to the point and not enough action in the film. I cannot see any child sitting still in this film. Rather wait for it on DVD than waist your time and money on cinema.

johno o sullivan

Martys most personal film since Kundron and all the better for it Best 3d ive seens Beautifully told story of innoncense and loss and the joy of getting lost in the dark If it wasnt for the slow pace and false start ending I would make it film of the year ,but that belongs to Moneyball So Marty put the guns away ,still time to rival Clint as Americas greatest filmmaker

USMAN LATIF KHAWAJA

After a respendently sweeping opening shot we are lost in Paris in some anachronistic period where children go to see Fairbanks play Robin hood in palatial cinemas ,but there still are earlier past cinema masterpieces which have been lost to humanity and they were in Technicolor too,in this fantasy world we also see Eiffel tower projected perpetually in every shot and all the french characters speak ''ENGLISH in cut glass british accents'' ,which is as irritable as the squeaking artificial prosthesis of Sacha cohen ,and he is a police men who chases little orphan boys out of his train station with a vicious dog on tow in broad daylight ,i wonder this was a German fascist camp or a romantic rhapsodic tribute to movies set as a period piece at a Paris train station in the 40s .The foretelling Automaton is fixed by jude Law[ in one scene alone]and then we return to the cop and kid ''cat and mouse game'' ,where trains blow and whistle and crash all at same time ,while paris is lit like a christmas tree and it is a pretty well illuminated tree and movie too ,except it does not even walk rather crawls and it needs pruning too desperately as every scene in its enchanting frame extends to the deadly lengths of a redwood sequioa tree rather than a charming and cosy christmas tree ;and the tribute becomes a full blown magical restoration of ''old is gold'' too as if movie industry has nothing else to do today and by the looks of this ''family epic '',i dare say movie industry is just as lame and tame today as the Sacha cohen caricature of a french cop .The colors and the production design are gorgeous even more so than Paris itself in this petulant and indulgent period piece .HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY .

Ian

The reviews seem mixed and to be honest the film has left me with mixed feelings. It looks stunning in 3d on a big screen but it is a bit long. The story is relatively simple about love, despair and fear. All of the characters have something missing in their life and all somehow find it by the end. It is really a film about the love of cinema and how it can change people. Kingsley is excellent, you loath him at the beginning and then come to love him, the young leads are good and are ably supported. Half way through the film I was disappointed but the film slowly won me round. Good, very good in places just not great. Its a good 3 star film rather than a great 4 star film. If it hadn't been directed as a labour of love by Scorcese I imagine the reviews and momentum for the film would have not been so great.

scrumpyjack

"totally unbelievable" says the first post. No further comment needed there. My thoughts, Baron Cohen near Wrecks it, would HATE to see it in 2D as Scorsese clearly means it to be watched in 3D (don't fret, it's the best Iv'e ever seen) and there are going to be a lot of very bored under 8's. Plenty here for most though and, while not a magical film a very fine one (on the big screen in 3D only) and should not be missed. However, If you can't afford it buy Lemony Snicket (8/10) as, even in 2D, it's superior. Perhaps 100min would have worked better here as well? 7+/10

supernova

Sentimental guff - strangely the most enchanting footage was the original/treated footage of Melies' films. At times I felt like I was watching a Sokurov film as time seemed to move so slowly. Old fashioned film making in all the worst ways, unfortunately. A very simple story has all the magic pumped out of it by self absorbed camera moves and twee characterisation. A christmas turkey with all the trimmings.

Justin Berkovi

Just went to the premiere of this tonight. Yet ANOTHER totally off the mark TIMEOUT review?! What a surprise! As Scorcese gets more money for his films they become unfortunately quite awful. I wanted to much to like this film, I'm a huge Scorcese fan but this contrived, false and cringeworthy pap is one of the worst and most boring films of 2011. Throughout the entire film the audience fidgeted. It's richly shot but over the top. Pixar did a much more beautiful and subtle Paris in Ratatouille. Here we have Paris rammed down our throats with incessant accordians non stop throughout the film. The one surprise is Sacha Baron Cohen who was quite wonderful but still not up to par of a film of this magnitude. A dreary, overlong, totally unbelievable heap of crap then.