Wednesday, November 23, 2011



Hugo Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese is perhaps one of today's most celebrated filmmakers. His films are often embraced for memorable characters and compelling stories. However, can you imagine that he makes a Children's film in 3-D, no less, and delivers it on the eve of Thanksgiving Day with a turkey?

You bet.

Based on a Brian Selznick's novel, a dazzlingly looking "Hugo" (USA/UK 2011 | 127 min.) tells a story about a boy's adventure. It is Martin Scorsese's 3-D movie debut. However, while he fantastically adds a new dimension in visualization, he eliminates one dimension of depth in his characters.

Set in early 1930s in Paris, Hugo (Asa Butterfield) loses his father (Jude Law) to an accident and becomes an orphan. He lives in a train station and attends to all the giant wall clocks. While constantly facing the danger to be rounded up to an orphanage by an intimidating station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), he is busy on finding resources to fix an automaton left by his late father.

Hugo's activities also irritate a hot-tempered magic shop owner at the station—Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley). With the help from Georges's goddaughter daughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), Hugo discovers that Georges is a beloved yet forgotten filmmaker. The genius Hugo not only repairs the automaton, he also brings Georges and his films back to the spotlight.

Asa Butterfield in Hugo

Although the film a children's movie, Hugo's adventure is not prominent enough to capture a child's attention. A big portion of the film, which is intended for adults, dedicates to the nostalgia sentiment about Georges's film-making past. The ingenious usage of the new 3-D technology is brilliant to tell a love story for film and filmmaking. However, the unconvincing characters and the written-for-children plot compromises the effort of paying homage to pioneers in films.

Compared to Martin Scorsese's other character driven films, this one is anything but. The film looks strangely familiar, with undeniable charm and impeccable details. Every time when Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths) meets Madame Emilie (Frances de la Tour) and her dog at the train station, I am reminded by those little cartoons sprinkling between the pages in The New Yorker. Yet, despite all the delightful ingredients, the finishing dish does not live up to its expectation and is served just as a discount kid's meal.

Let's hope that Martin Scorsese finds his magic key to fix this 3-D handsome looking automaton and brings us some magic in the near future.

"Hugo," a Paramount Pictures release, opens on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at Bay Area theaters.

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